Amadeus won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham's portrayal of Antonio Salieri, the court composer whose jealousy of Mozart's talents drives the film's narrative. It's a powerhouse of a role for Abraham enabling him to play the older, bitter Salieri confessing his sins to a priest as well as the younger, manipulative Salieri humble and smiling in public while plotting Mozart's demise in private.
While the movie is all about Salieri and his complicated relationship with Mozart, its Salieri's complex relationship with God that left a lasting impression for me. After all, from a young age all Salieri wanted to do was praise God through music, disavowing himself from all vices and keeping himself chaste so he can devote his life to his music. Enter Mozart, vulgar and crass as can be, and yet whose music was just like "hearing the voice of God." Compared to that, Salieri recognizes his own mediocrity and blames God for giving him just enough talent to recognize the genius of Mozart's work, but not enough to create something similar himself. Even worse, he resents that God would choose to bestow such a talent to a "boastful, lustful, smutty, infantile boy." Ultimately, he vows to "hinder and harm" God's chosen instrument in Mozart while burning a crucifix as if to signal to the audience how serious he is of his new life goal.
And so in a film with such a lavish production, operatic music, and endless supply of wigs and costumes, it's a quiet, almost bare scene where Salieri prays to God that caught my eye.
Here, Salieri begs God to send Mozart away, praying "for his sake and mine." Abraham's acting here is just phenomenal, subtle and still so evocative. His face and his hands, filling the frame, do the heavy lifting, making us feel all the emotions he's experiencing--hopelessness, jealousy, anger, sadness, confusion, etc. Of course, this happens prior to his point of no return (when he burns the crucifix) so it's an apt prayer that unfortunately goes unanswered.