Journal Notes & Thoughts on Two Films About the Great Composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven

Music is… a higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy — Beethoven

Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

Watching “Immortal Beloved” about the life of Beethoven. It is easy to understand how a man could become so troubled. His passion was music, and he went deaf. To think that he wrote/composed several great symphonies after losing his hearing is one of the wonders of the world. His Ninth Symphony would be an achievement for any living person with all their capacities. But for a totally deaf man… it is astonishing! — Journal Note, Feb 10, 2000

Not yet finished with Immortal Beloved but have reached several of the “Ahas” in the latter part of the movie. The scene of young Beethoven lying in the lake, floating on the water beneath the stars, was wonderfully conceived… the Ode to Joy playing as he reveled in the freedom and music of the spheres, at one with the Universe.

The great “Aha” in the film is learning of his passionate love for a woman who married his brother. His tortured life was filled with rejection, misunderstanding and the difficulties due to his deafness… but this was an especially stinging wound. — Journal Note, Feb 12, 2000

Re-discovering Beethoven. What a wonder this music, squeezed through pores of pain, to enrich the world. It is said that he was possibly the first to create music intended to have an immortal life of its own beyond the life of its composer and first listeners. — Journal Note, Feb 13, 2000

Pencil drawing by author.

He began going deaf early in his life, suffering from the disease of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) which interfered with his ability to enjoy music and eventually left him completely deaf the last nine years of his life.

When I was about eight years old I began taking piano lessons. I had a piano teacher who early introduced me to the masters. Like so many young piano students I was early drawn to Beethoven and Chopin for their romantic lyricism.

This film, like many well-executed tragic films, is full of heartbreakingly beautiful moments. I think here of the scene of anguish with Gary Oldman as Beethoven failing to make it to a pre-arranged tryst because his carriage gets stuck in the mud. Throughout the scene we hear Beethoven’s agony expressed through the music from his Seventh Symphony. Though the Seventh has always been a favorite of mine, the second movement will never be the same.

A more recent film on the troubled life of the Maestro is Copying Beethoven. In this film Ed Harris plays the role of revealing new facets of Beethoven’s life that we might not have otherwise known about. Though I find Harris a compelling performer in many if not most of his other films, I did not find myself emotionally bonding with this portrayal. Yes, he did his best with the material he had to work with. The supreme wonderment of the Ninth was given ample screen time, but could not entirely save the film for me. I was constantly aware that I was watching men and women playing roles.

Both movies show a man of complex emotions, conflicting drives, a somewhat brutish and impulsive, crude and difficult, yet reflective and humble man of genius with pain in his heart and turmoil in his soul. Yet the music he has created lives on.

To what extent did his temporal suffering produce such effervescent and profoundly inspiring compositions? We who would desire to produce similarly great art, in any medium, how deeply are we willing to embrace those sorrows that plow the heart so that the seeds of great achievement might find good soil?

Originally published at

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store