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Shortly after Ludwig van Beethoven's death, a mysterious letter signed by the musical genius appears: "What longings with tears for you...my life...my everything...farewell then...Go on loving me, ever yours, ever mine, forever, L.." These mysterious words prove the existence of one true love for Beethoven in the midst of numerous affairs — and never a marriage — with countesses. However, throughout history, Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved" remains unknown until now, where with enough evidence, Beethoven's "longing" is revealed, disclaiming all previous theories and biographies about one of the greatest composers who ever lived.
For more about Immortal Beloved and the Immortal Beloved Blu-ray release, see Immortal Beloved Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on August 5, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Gary Oldman, Jeroen Krabbé, Isabella Rossellini, Johanna ter Steege, Marco Hofschneider, Barry Humphries
Director: Bernard Rose
» See full cast & crew
Immortal Beloved Blu-ray Review
Sony delivers yet another outstanding catalog release
Reviewed by Ben Williams, August 5, 2007
Let's get this right out of the way: I love films about tortured musicians. Be it Beethoven or Mozart or even the forgotten film regarding Mahler, I can't get enough of the enigma of musical genius and how it plays out in one's personality. So naturally, Immortal Beloved is high on my list as one of the few films of this type that manages to capture this enigma perfectly.
Immortal Beloved follows a series of events that takes place after the death of Ludwig von Beethoven (Gary Oldman). The film is told in a series of flashbacks as Beethoven's close friend Anton Schindler (Jeoren Krabbe) attempts to track down the intended recipient of a letter Beethoven addressed simply to his "Immortal Beloved." It seems that Beethoven had a secret lover throughout his life, and as his remaining family try to collect his fortune, his last will was that this "Immortal Beloved" receive the entirety of his estate. As we follow the flashbacks through Beethoven's life, we are shown a profile of a very unlikable man who did more to alienate his few friends rather than inspire their devotion. Despite this, there is a cadre of women whose lives have been changed forever by their relationships with Beethoven. It is only through their eyes that we see the elements of his personality that inspired their affection.
This is a magnificent film of great performances and inspired storytelling. I'm sure it plays fast and loose with historical fact, but anyone who can appreciate Beethoven's genius can surely find a fondness for this story. Gary Oldman portrays Beethoven with an aloof complexity; he leaves the viewer spellbound with a hunger for more about Beethoven's life. The supporting cast is equally impressive, with outstanding performances from Valeria Golino, Isabella Rossellini and Jeoren Krabbe. I can find no fault with Immortal Beloved as it tells an engrossing story through masterful performances and an amazing attention to period detail. Of course, the music of Beethoven is also profoundly moving, especially within the context of the film. There is a scene near the end of the film where we eavesdrop on Beethoven's thoughts during the debut performance of his Ninth Symphony. What follows is a fantastical shot of a young Beethoven basking in a cool pond on a starry night that ranks, for me, as one of the most beautiful sequences ever put to film. Simply amazing.
Immortal Beloved Blu-ray, Video Quality
Immortal Beloved is a beautifully shot film with loads of natural grain and a fine attention to the most minute of period details. Fortunately, the team at Sony was well up to the task of giving this amazing film an absolutely first-class transfer. A strange thing has occurred over the past few months: Sony has emerged as the studio consistently producing the finest catalog release transfers in the high definition business. The amount of care that has been taken with Immortal Beloved is staggering, nothing short of remarkable. The film is only 12 years old, but it was originally shot with a relatively small budget and relied on lesser film stocks than the typical Hollywood production. This lesser stock is why, on many occasions, British and European films merely a decade old can oftentimes look quite dated. An immense amount of time must have been spent bringing this negative up to the quality that we are now able to view on Blu-ray. Black levels and contrast are first rate and colors are beautifully saturated. For example, the scene where Beethoven and Giulietta run in the gardens of an estate near Venice. The vivid greens and reds of the garden nearly leap off the screen. Nothing is being artificially pushed here as stone facades in the background are perfectly natural looking and maintain the appropriate level of detail. And speaking of detail, closely watch the many delicate fabrics that are used in the film's costuming. Beethoven's funeral is a notable scene where all of the women in attendance are wearing veils. The amount of detail in these veils is among the most startling fine film detail I've yet seen conveyed in a home video presentation. Immortal Beloved, on Blu-ray is pure perfection!
Special Note: Due to overwhelming requests from users of fixed height front projection systems, Sony has included an option to move the subtitles of Immortal Beloved out of the black bars of the widescreen presentation and into the actual picture area. Those with fixed height 2.35:1 setups, have, up until this point, been unable to view subtitles, as their screens eliminate the black bars. Way to go Sony!
Immortal Beloved Blu-ray, Audio Quality
This is a tricky film to bring to Blu-ray as it doesn't contain the bombastic elements that usually lead to excellent grades from reviewers. What Immortal Beloved contains, however, are some of the finest musical performances ever featured in a film. The real trick here is to present this music and the accompanying dialog in as crystal-clear a way as possible. In this regard, Immortal Beloved's TrueHD soundtrack is outstanding and succeeds in every aspect. Sure, there is one scene where cannon-fire is nicely directional, but the remainder of the film is more ambient with a focus on performed music taking up the appropriate space in your home theater. Most of this music relies on the front speakers, but rear fill adds a nice acoustic touch in reproducing the atmosphere from whatever room in which we are watching the music performed. Immortal Beloved is another fine example of the benefits of uncompressed sound. This is a film that I've seen on many occasions, from the theater to the home theater. It has never sounded anywhere close to as incredible as it sounds on Blu-ray.
Immortal Beloved Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
-Commentary track with Director Bernard Rose: Commentaries can be a bit of a bore, depending on the commentator. Bernard Rose's track is really something of a revelation. He is filled with information regarding the outline for the story, the historical aspects of what is included in the film and his choices as a filmmaker. This is an insightful track that is sure to educate as well as entertain
-"Beloved Beethoven" I was somewhat surprised to find that this half-hour documentary isn't really focused on Beethoven, but on Director Bernard Rose and the making of the film. It's a bit repetitive from what is contained within the commentary, but might make for a nice alternative for those who prefer not to listen to commentaries.
-"Behind the Scenes" Don't waste your time with this. This is a slap-dash documentary with sloppily thrown together cast interviews. Nothing to see here… move along…
Immortal Beloved Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I find it hard to contain my enthusiasm for the Blu-ray version of Immortal Beloved. I've been a huge fan of the film for years and am thrilled to be able to experience it in my home in such outstanding quality. Both the audio and video are remarkable and really convey the theatrical experience that makes Immortal Beloved such a fascinating film to explore. Immortal Beloved is a film to own and to enjoy on multiple occasions as it reveals new depth upon each viewing. It would be a crime if I didn't give this film my highest recommendation.
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