Eroica

Eroica

***1/2

Reviewed by: Trinity

It is June 9th 1804, Vienna. In the home of Prince and Princess Lobokowitz, a group of musicians gather for a special performance: the first play through of Beethoven's Third Symphony, enigmatically entitled Eroica.

A select audience has been invited, including Count Dietrichstein, who considers himself a music connoisseur, and two sisters - Countesses - one of whom is the forbidden love of the composer. As the performance continues - each of the four parts indicate a shift in mood - the differences between the various attendees become evident.

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Eroica has the unmistakable look and feel of a BBC dramatisation which, indeed, is what it is. This is no bad thing, as the style suits itself well to the subject: carefully placed shots and lighting, costumes that evoke a gaudy sense of the Austrian upper-classes.

Ian Hart plays Beethoven as a impassioned socialist and his accent is in marked contrast to the silky tones of Jack Davenport's prince and the other aristocrats. The usual set of musical caricatures is here, but the actual symphony is played in its entirety by the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique, one of the leading orchestras that specialise in Romantic period music, which was heralded by the birth of Eroica.

The decision to concentrate on the music is both a blessing and a curse: we get 70 minutes of glorious sounds, but lose any semblance of complex character development. It also fails to tell the stories behind the music properly, unless it's speaking in a language of raised eyebrows, sly smiles and knowing glances.

The film is all about breaking with traditional ways, the death of idealism and the birth of a new world order. It also shows that music can inspire, provoke excitement and cause disillusionment. The final scene shows Beethoven receiving news of Napoleon's self-appointment as emperor, tearing apart the delicate fabric of his socialist dreams, sinking him into a rage that will produce some of his greatest works.

In a way, Eroica - the film - is the same. Our dreams of a chance to delve, to find romance, are shattered, leaving us nothing but the music.

Reviewed on: 02 Aug 2003
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The birth of Romance.
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