Ed Harris plays Beethoven, bringing none of the soul he imbued into Jackson Pollock, instead playing the composer as an uncontrollable creep who runs around with an ear-horn and yelling at people because he's deaf, annoying his neighbors, drinking heavily, and generally making an ass out of himself. Under heavy makeup (namely a clown nose and a long wig), Harris is nearly unrecognizable. Into his world comes Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), a copyist who helps him complete his famous Ninth Symphony. As is the norm for movies with difficult main characters, he alternately adores and abuses her, such that the film consists largely of her leaving then coming back then leaving again.
Say what you will about Beethoven being a jerk, but Copying Beethoven is just cruel and malicious. Seriously: I'm not a historian but I stil doubt Beethoven would have made fart sounds as he sang aloud the composition of aspiring composer Anna Holtz (who appears to be entirely fictional, by the way). Copying Beethoven also plays pretty loose with history in general, giving us a Beethoven who was still able to hear to some extent up until he keeled over.
As bad as the script is, Harris is worse, brashly shouting his lines when he's not mooning the camera. (Again, I'm not joking.) It's a testament to how bad a movie when Diane Kruger, hardly cinema's most gifted actress, is the best thing about a movie.
Holland, now light-years away from her 1990 Europa Europa pinnacle, is completely off her rocker here. The film is disjointed and random, unable to decide if it's about Beethoven of Anna, or maybe neither. The film's centerpiece is a performance of the Ninth Symphony, with Holtz shadow-conducting for Beethoven, who can't keep time. It goes on for nearly 10 full minutes. I'm not sure I've ever seen a mainstream, narrative movie with such a long stretch of nothing happening, action-wise. And yet it's easily the best part of the film.
The studio must have known: Copying Beethoven had a token release and was a massive flop at the box office, earning a few hundred thousand dollars against its $11 million budget. Now on DVD, you can hear Holand and Harris's commentary on the film, plus get deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. But I'd suggest you avoid it altogether... especially if you're a classical music fan.
Beethoven pulls a finger.
In Theaters: Thursday 8th March 2007
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: MGM
Production compaines: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Anomaly Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 28%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 58
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Screenwriter: Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson
Starring: Ed Harris as Ludwig van Beethoven, Diane Kruger as Anna Holtz, Matthew Goode as Martin Bauer, Phyllida Law as Mother Canisius, Ralph Riach as Wenzel Schlemmer, Bill Stewart as Rudy, Angus Barnett as Krenski, Viktoria Dihen as Magda, Phyllida Law as Mother Canisius, Matyelok Gibbs as Old Woman
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