Copying Beethoven – DVD Review

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Agnieszka Holland


Ed Harris Ludwig van Beethoven
Diane Kruger Anna Holtz
Matthew Goode Martin Brauer
Ralph Riach Wenzel Schlemmer

DVD Release Date: April 3, 2007
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 104 Minutes

The Movie

cop•y•ist [kop-ee-ist]
— noun 1. a person who transcribes copies, esp. of documents.
2. an imitator.

Anna Holz is a copyist. In the situation she is in, she does not equal the second meaning of the word from the dictionary which is to be an imitator. What Anna does is she takes the works of one of the most famous composers in history and transcribes them so orchestras and musicians can read them and play the notes. She takes the work of composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who has often been considered a madman, and deciphers it so that others besides him can appreciate its beauty.

Beethoven’s publisher Wenzel Schlemmer has gotten in touch with a music conservatory and asked for someone to help the famed musician. Anna is a music student at the conservatory and lands the job of traveling to Vienna to work with Beethoven when he is in his peak years as a composer. He is in the middle of writing his famous “Ninth Symphony” and she has the envious job of transcribing his writings so that others are able to play his work. Although this job was longed after by many, she had no idea of knowing that it would become more of a troublesome task then a joyous employment. Anna is writing her own work though and hopes that some of Beethoven’s expertise can help her finish it. But the master’s berating of her work, and also her fiancé Martin’s, causes her to be more fit to be tied then thankful.

Beethoven is not without his own troubles as his hearing is greatly declining and he wears a contraption attached to his wig to help him hear what little he can. Not only is everyday conversation difficult, but his musical work is going more so on memory and inspiration now rather then by ear of sound. Thus is the reason that Anna has come into the picture and is there to transcribe his work so that it will be immaculate as all his pieces have been.

As Anna finishes her first proofreading, so to speak, of some of his work, she has changed a few things. She felt this was not only the correct thing to do but something that Beethoven would have eventually done himself. Beethoven does not take kindly to “a woman” changing his masterpiece and therefore leads into the back and forth between the two of them pushing each other’s buttons until his symphony is complete.

Throughout the course of the film, there is nothing more really then the interaction between Anna and Beethoven and how their relationship grows. He refuses to accept the advice of a woman correcting his work and constantly gets frustrated. Although it is a combination of his declining health and lack of hearing that spurns much of his anger. Anna grows from the cautious and shy girl too scared to show him her own work to the courageous and strong-willed woman who is willing to let him know when he’s made a mistake.

The film isn’t bad at seeing how things may have been if they were true. From what I’ve learned of Beethoven is that he often had assistants helping him who all failed to meet his expectations, but were also all males. Here we have a young female gliding into the picture which would make the entire situation extremely different. And we never really know how he may have actually interacted with her since she is fictional.

His loss of hearing also made him more stand-offish in his last years because he did not communicate with many people. Beethoven focused on his music and it was also quite difficult to speak with anyone due to his problem, so he mostly kept to himself. So his angry and off-the-wall reactions and feelings towards Anna may not be totally accurate as to how he may have been towards a woman helping him. But we’ll never actually know and can only go by the visions of those who study what materials are available about him.

I just honestly don’t feel that the way Beethoven acted towards Anna in this film is the way he truly would have been. His rage was blown a bit out of proportion and came to a conclusion that doesn’t make much sense, but makes for a happier ending.

The Video

The film is shown in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and looks fantastic. The olden looking time period really comes across well and shows a bright clear picture presenting the beauty of past times as they should be shown.

The Audio

The film is heard in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and should have sounded absolutely phenomenal and it delivers. Filmmakers knew that the sound of the film was the most important part of a film such as this so Beethoven’s symphonies could come across flawlessly and be presented as beautiful as they are. The score is absolutely brilliant and the rest of the film, which is mostly dialogue, is loud enough so you don’t constantly have to adjust the volume.

Special Features

Orchestrating Copying Beethoven Featurette – Almost all members of the cast and crew come together to discuss the main man Beethoven himself. It’s short but still interesting to see exactly what they know about him and how they learned more just by shooting the film.

Audio Commentary – Commentary is with director Agnieszka Holland and Ed Harris and really isn’t too bad. At times it’s hard to understand Holland, but I’ve always enjoyed listening to Ed Harris because the man just seems to always sound like he knows exactly what he’s talking about. The commentary is very informative but can get a tad boring at times, so it’s a flip a coin decision if you wish to watch the film again or not.

Deleted Scenes – A few scenes that could have been left in the film or not. They really wouldn’t have made much difference if they had kept them in and didn’t make much difference by cutting them out. Not much to see here really.

The Inside Pulse

The film could have been so much more then it was with a terrific actor such as Ed Harris, but I just don’t know if he was the right person for the part. For some reason, he just doesn’t say Beethoven to me when I see or hear him. But that may simply be a personal issue, I don’t know. Then there is the film which is less about Beethoven’s less years and more about his relationship with someone who was never even really there. The special features should have really included something about the score and music for it seems almost like it would be a given. As negative as I may sound, the DVD is worth at least a rental for it delivers a somewhat good story set to gorgeous music.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Copying Beethoven
(OUT OF 10)






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