more stars than in the heavens

not in our stars, but in ourselves

Scribbling and bibbling, bibbling and scribbling

NOTE: Another academic trifle for you lot.  Amadeus is a favorite, favorite film, and it will get a less pedantic write-up at some point in the future – but for now, I’m rather curious to see how this goes over.  Like a pregnant pole-vaulter?  We’ll see.  I’ve been told that this essay is “clever” – but I do wonder if it’s actually any good.  Be gentle with me.  I’m strictly amateur at this psych stuff.


“What was God up to?”: Salieri, Mozart, Freud and the Trickster in Amadeus

In this essay, I seek to demonstrate how the characters of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Milos Forman’s Amadeus (1984) represent two quite distinct psychoanalytic modes and theories: Salieri is the Freudian obsessional neurotic, consumed and tortured by desires he seeks to repress; while Mozart is the Jungian trickster – an archaic archetype of both wildness and divinity.  I will rely primarily on texts from Freud and Jung themselves, with occasional clarifications and embellishments from other scholarly sources, and apply it to a thorough examination of each character.  In doing this, I hope to prove that each composer has an entirely distinct method of experiencing the universe – and explaining, ultimately, how one man’s obsession with another hindered his creativity and emotional well being, while another man’s indifference to anything but creation led both to his downfall but also to his ultimate immortality.

Sigmund Freud revolutionised man’s understanding of his fellow man with psychoanalysis.  He theorised that the mind consists of both consciousness and unconsciousness: the thoughts, experiences, and ideas of which one is aware, and those that lurk in the dark, respectively.  Consciousness is expressed through the ego, and unconsciousness filters through the id.  Freud sought to determine what was at the root of a host of psychological problems – and the root, he found, was almost always in the unconscious.  He worked and wrote extensively throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and decided that the essential pattern of mental life is as follows: a baby is born, and immediately sets on his mother as his love-object.  She nurtures him, caresses him, and lavishes him with affection.  He associates his mother with pleasure; and since Freud theorised that man seeks pleasure constantly – and since pleasure really means sexual pleasure – he remains in love with his mother for the rest of his life.  He sees his father as a rival for her affections, and views all siblings with contempt and jealousy: not only do they represent further sexual intercourse between his mother and his father, they are additional rivals for his beloved mother’s affection.  As the child grows older and reaches maturity, he represses his incestuous longings.  He seeks a woman of his own – a woman meant to replace his mother.  When he and his new wife have a child, the cycle repeats.  So it goes.

This, according to Freud, is the typical way of life and love in humankind. (His theories about female children follow similar paths as those about males, but he admitted repeatedly that he understood less about women.) With such fraught childhoods, gardens of neuroses, psychoses, hysterias, and manias cropped up all over Vienna – and he formed theories about them as well.  For our purposes, we will chiefly examine his work on obsessional neurotics, family “romances,” religion, and melancholia.

We will begin with obsessional neurotics.  Freud summarises a fairly typical example of obsessional neurosis in Totem and Taboo:

Now both the clinical history and the psychical mechanism of obsessional neurosis have become known to us through psycho-analysis.  The clinical history of a typical case of “touching phobia” is as follows.  Right at the beginning, in very early childhood, the patient shows a strong desire to touch, the aim of which is of a far more specialized kind that one would have been inclined to expect.  This desire is promptly met by an external prohibition against carrying out that particular kind of touching.  The prohibition is accepted, since it finds support from powerful internal forces, and proves stronger than the instinct which is seeking to express itself in the touching.  In consequence, however, of the child’s primitive psychical constitution, the prohibition does not succeed in abolishing the instinct.  Its only result is to repress the instinct (the desire to touch) and banish it into the unconscious (Freud 1913, 2677).

In other words, obsessional neurosis consists of repressed desires.  Of course, we should “not be surprised to learn that what is being represented in obsessive actions or in ceremonials is derived from the most intimate, and for the most part from the sexual, experiences of the patient” (Freud 1907, 1904).  Therefore, in the case of our touching phobia, it is likely that the patient discovered – in childhood – that he derived intense sexual satisfaction from touching or being touched.  At some point, perhaps, he was made to feel by an adult that he was wrong and naughty to experience such pleasure; and so he repressed the desire to such an extent that the love of touching mutates into a pathological fear of touching.

We can build on obsessional neuroses with family romances, as they introduce a new set of interdictions and desires.  As Freud writes in “Family Romances”:

When presently the child comes to know the difference in the parts played by fathers and mothers in their sexual relations, and realizes that “pater semper incertus est”, while the mother is “certissima”, the family romance undergoes a curious curtailment: it contents itself with exalting the child’s father, but no longer casts any doubts on his maternal origin, which is regarded as something unalterable.  This second (sexual) stage of the family romance is actuated by another motive as well, which is absent in the first (asexual) stage.  The child, having learnt about sexual processes, tends to picture to himself erotic situations and relations, the motive force behind this being his desire to bring his mother (who is the subject of the most intense sexual curiosity) into situations of secret infidelity and into secret love-affairs (Freud 1909, 1989).

Needless to say, the child soon realises that he cannot have sex with his mother, and so he reacts against those desires extremely – repressing them in an effort to rid himself of them:

The liberation of an individual, as he grows up, from the authority of his parents is one of the most necessary though one of the most painful results brought about by the course of development.  It is quite essential that liberation should occur and it may be presumed that it has been to some extent achieved by everyone who has reached a normal state.  Indeed, the whole progress of society rests upon the opposition between successive generations.  On the other hand, there is a class of neurotics whose condition is recognizably determined by their having failed in this task (Freud 1909, 1987).

A neurotic, who does not succeed in liberating himself from his unacceptable desire for his mother, “exhibits some degree of psychical infantilism.  He has either failed to get free from the psychosexual conditions that prevailed in his childhood or he has returned to them – two possibilities which may be summed up as developmental inhibition and regression” (Freud 1913, 2665).  In short, his incestuous longings define him for the rest of his life: he cannot free himself from wishing for his mother’s touch, and so he either remains obviously attached to her for the rest of his life (inhibition), or he stumbles in his efforts to repress the wish and tries to return to her (regression).

Related to family romances in the sense of extreme attachment to figures of authority, Freud summarised religion as “a neurosis of humanity,” saying that it “explains its enormous power in the same way as a neurotic compulsion in our individual patients” (Freud 1939, 4883).  Indeed, he sees religion and obsessional neurosis in particular as closely linked:

It is easy to see where the resemblances lie between neurotic ceremonials and the sacred acts of religious ritual: in the qualms of conscience brought on by their neglect, in their complete isolation from all other actions (shown in the prohibition against interruption) and in the conscientiousness with which they are carried out in every detail.  But the differences are equally obvious, and a few of them are so glaring that they make the comparison a sacrilege: the greater individual variability of ceremonial actions in contrast to the stereotyped character of rituals (prayer, turning to the East, etc.), their private nature as opposed to the public and communal character of religious observances, above all, however, the fact that, while the minutiae of religious ceremonial are full of significance and have a symbolic meaning, those of neurotics seem foolish and senseless.  In this respect an obsessional neurosis presents a travesty, half comic and half tragic, of a private religion (Freud 1907, 1903).

This link is vitally important to understand.  The difference between a religious practice and an obsessional neurosis lies merely in the public knowledge of the reasons for the acts involved: it may be common to turn to the east in a religious ceremony because that is where the sun, or God, is supposed to be; but it may be necessary for a neurotic always to face the east because he has a private, all-consuming fear of darkness.

Finally, before setting aside Freud for the time being, it is important to consider a rather different concept (but still related) than these obsessions, romances, and religions: melancholia.  It is distinct from mourning in that mourning is a process by which a person tries to heal the psychic wound left by loss; in melancholia, the wound is not permitted to heal.  How and why does this occur?  It is an attempt to keep the loved, lost object alive: “The ego wants to incorporate this object into itself, and, in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development in which it is, it wants to do so by devouring it” (Freud 1984, 258).  In other words, “by taking flight into the ego love escapes extinction” (Freud 1984, 267).  The effect of this “cannibalisation” is not so simple as merely keeping love after it has gone or died, however:

The narcissistic identification with the object then becomes a substitute for the erotic cathexis, the result of which is that in spite of the conflict with the loved person the love-relation need not be given up.  This substitution of identification for object-love is an important mechanism in the narcissistic affections; Karl Landauer (1914) has lately been able to point to it in the process of recovery in a case of schizophrenia.  It represents, of course, a regression from one type of object-choice to original narcissism (Freud 1984, 258).

To clarify the situation: A loves B intensely, but B leaves A (either in an actual, physical sense or by dying; a melancholic interprets them as essentially equal).  A feels an extraordinarily strong sense of loss, because “he knows whom he has lost but not what he has lost in him.  This would suggest that melancholia is in some way related to an object-loss which is withdrawn from consciousness, in contradistinction to mourning, in which there is nothing about the loss that is unconscious” (Freud 1984, 254).  B represented something more than herself to A, and A does not know how to live without that idea.  He therefore internalises his loss, and “displays … an extraordinary diminution in his self-regard, an impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale.  In mourning it is the world which has become poor and empty; in melancholia it is the ego itself.  The patient represents his ego to us as worthless, incapable of any achievement and morally despicable; he reproaches himself, vilifies himself and expects to be cast out and punished” (Freud 1984, 254). What A really means, however, is to vilify B for leaving him, for abandoning him and leaving him with this loss and lack.  Thus we return to our old family romance: what the melancholic is truly incapable of accepting is the loss of his first love object, his mother.  Vladimir Nabokov was resolutely anti-Freudian, but he expressed the plight of the melancholic beautifully: “the poison was in the wound, and the wound remained ever open” (Nabokov 1997, 18).

C.G. Jung was quite another breed of psychoanalyst – indeed, rather than call his practice “psychoanalysis,” he called it “analytical psychology.” Where Freud assumed that man is born a relatively blank slate, acquiring bundles of neuroses throughout his life, Jung theorised that man is born essentially whole.  His psyche consists of an ego, which, as in Freud, is the “conscious factor par excellence” (Jung 1974, 5); it consists, too, of several layers of unconsciousness:

the unconscious can be divided into three groups of contents.  But from the standpoint of the psychology of the personality a twofold division ensues: an “extra-conscious” psyche whose contents are personal, and an “extra-conscious” psyche whose contents are impersonal and collective.  The first group comprises contents which are integral components of the individual personality and could therefore just as well be conscious; the second group forms, as it were, an omnipresent, unchanging, and everywhere identical quality or substrate of the psyche per se (Jung 1974, 7).

This collective unconscious is an aggregate of experiences, impressions, stories and archetypes that are embedded deep within our minds from the moment we draw breath, based on the collective mental lives of our human ancestors.  They are not experiences that each individual has in his life: they are ingrown, inherent.  The four main archetypes in Jungian theory are the anima, the animus, the persona, and the shadow.  The anima and the animus are, in some sense, each individual’s soul.  A man has an anima (Mythos); a woman has an animus (Logos).  Men project their animae onto each woman they meet, and women their animi onto each man.  Where the anima/animus is each individual’s inner opposite, projected outward, the persona is – to borrow from T.S. Eliot – the face you put on to meet the faces that you meet.  It is how we present ourselves (or our Selves) to the world.  Finally, the shadow is our inner, snarling Steppenwolf.  It is everything dark and animalistic in us – but it is also, along with our anima or animus, the source of creativity and inspiration.  All these facets of the psyche create the wholeness that is the core of Jungian theory.  A person “is not an assemblage of parts, each of which has been added through experience and learning much as one might furnish a house piece by piece” (Hall and Nordby 1973, 32); rather, he is born with a wealth of psychological genetic material in his mind – archetypes that are as deeply embedded in our psyches as skeletal structure is embedded in our DNA.  The way that we interpret and use these archetypes will, of course, be shaped by our personal experiences, both conscious and unconscious.  But, according to Jung, we all have access to them simply by virtue of being human.

Of those archetypes – anima/animus, persona, and shadow – the shadow is most crucial to our understanding in our context, since it relates to the trickster quite directly.  As Hall and Nordby say, the “shadow contains more of man’s basic animal nature than any other archetype does” (1973, 48).  It contains fairly primordial characteristics, perhaps remainders of man’s earlier, more animalistic ancestors.  Jung explains, “Closer examination of the dark characteristics – that is, the inferiorities constituting the shadow – reveals that they have an emotional nature, a kind of autonomy, and accordingly an obsessive or, better, possessive quality.  Emotion, incidentally, is not an activity of the individual but something that happens to him” (1974, 8-9).  The effect of the shadow can sometimes be quite difficult to endure:

To take a legitimate parallel from the psychology of the individual, namely the appearance of an impressive shadow figure antagonistically confronting a personal consciousness: this figure does not appear merely because it still exists in the individual, but because it rests on a dynamism whose existence can only be explained in terms of his actual situation, for instance because the shadow is so disagreeable to his ego-consciousness that it has to be repressed into the unconscious (Jung 1972, 145).

We are reminded of Freud’s obsessional neurotics; crucially different, however, is Jung’s assertion that every person – whether healthy or not – has a shadow.  It may prove antagonistic; it may be something he seeks to repress.  But it can also be inspirational: “When the ego and the shadow work in close harmony, the person feels full of life and vigor.  The ego channels instead of obstructing the forces emanating from the instincts” (Hall and Nordby 1973, 49).  We will return to the question of archetypes and creativity presently, but first we will discuss the trickster.

Who – or what – is the trickster?  Terrie Waddell summarises: “As figures of myth, tricksters have been variously described as: ‘culture heroes’; the original agents of fire, water, sun and the division of sky and earth; life/death guides or conveyors of souls to the underworld (psychopomps); transformers able to kick-start progress for the benefit of humanity; and shameless fools” (2010, 6).  It is a mythological figure that makes appearances in many cultures, all over the world, with the “ability to ‘trip up’ the psyche through wily behaviours, unconscious slips, lapses, moral ambiguity, or foolery [enabling] trickster to alter perceptions and consequently initiate personal and collective change” (Waddell 2006, 29).  Jung was initially attracted to the Native American tribe, Winnebago, whose “central figure Wakdjunkaga (tricky one) again displays common characteristics of gender/sex transmutation, human/animal hybridity, phallic potency, lust, promiscuity, hunger, profanation, non-fixity, boundary transgression, and the ability to expose the multi-sided nature of the world” (Waddell 2010, 6-7).  These are the traits specific to Wakdjunkaga, but they are representative not only of many trickster figures throughout human history and culture; but also to the shadow itself:

If we take the trickster as a parallel of the individual shadow, then the question arises whether that trend towards meaning, which we saw in the trickster myth, can also be observed in the subjective and personal shadow.  Since this shadow frequently appears in the phenomenology of dreams as a well-defined figure, we can answer this question positively: the shadow, although by definition a negative figure, sometimes has certain clearly discernible traits and associations which point to a quite different background.  It is as though he were hiding meaningful contents under an unprepossessing exterior. (Jung 1972, 150)

The trickster is a catalyst, and its ultimate function is the “transformation of the meaningless into the meaningful [which] reveals the trickster’s compensatory relation to the ‘saint’” (Jung 1972, 136).  The trickster may seem to be little more than a trouble-maker, but he “is a forerunner of the saviour, and, like him, God, man, and animal at once.  He is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose chief and most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness” (Jung 1972, 143).

This is a fine transition to Jung’s divine child archetype, which we also must consider before finally turning back to the film.  Jung writes that a “curious combination of typical trickster motifs can be found in the alchemical figure of Mercurius; for instance, his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of tortures, and – last but not least – his approximation to the figure of a saviour” (1972, 135).  He also writes that Mercurius – or, in Greek mythology, Hermes – is the symbol of the alchemical “merging of opposites through the notion of coniunctio (divine marriage) … often illustrated through the hermaphrodite or an often incestuous heterosexual coupling (Sol/sun/masculine and Luna/moon/feminine…).  The product of this symbolic coitus adopted a number of forms including gold, the divine child, the figure of Mercurius, the lapis philosophorum (philosopher’s stone), and Christ” (Waddell 2006, 18).  Jung and Kerényi write that the

Homeric hymn to Hermes is a poem which, while paying homage to a Greek god as a divine child, describes him in such a way that the description became for us the classic Greek picture of divine childhood.  Hermes’ childhood is the special theme of the hymn, and, from this source alone, it casts its shadow on everything that is here under discussion.  It is different with the hymn to Apollo.  There Apollo shed his childhood almost immediately and we had to sketch in the childish features of the original mythologem more vividly, on the basis of other sources.  In the Hermetic hymn we cannot forget for a moment that the god who is being honoured is a child (1949, 70).

Hermes, Mercury, Wakdjunkaga – these are all trickster figures, of course, but they are also all divine children.  They are playful, mischievous, troublesome – but ultimately gods.  Hermes especially is a musical god-child:

Of the pictorial wealth of mythology we can best speak in terms of music. C. de Tolnay was the first to see the musical nature of this cosmic content in the most pictorial of all matter – classical painting.  And another Hungarian scholar, D. Kövendi, showed how for the Greeks the birth of the divine child, in the capacity of Eros Proteurhythmos, signified the rhythmic-musical creation of the universe.  The lyre in the hand of the Primordial Child expresses the musical quality of the world quite apart from the poet’s intention.  It is first and foremost characteristic of Hermes himself.  The Homeric poet sensed the musical nature of the universe as essentially Hermetic and located it in the Hermes colour-band of the world spectrum (Jung and Kerényi 1949, 79).

Hermes, the Western world’s prototypical trickster, is associated directly with music throughout all depictions and stories about him.  Jung tends to regard all art as a rather mysterious, divine process: “Indeed, the special significance of a true work of art resides in the fact that it has escaped from the limitations of the personal and has soared beyond the personal concerns of its creator” (1976, 309).  It as if each artist, each creator, has somehow become a vessel through which divinity flows.  This idea will be critical to our reading of Mozart – to whom we may now return.

Amadeus is a dramatized account of the relationship between Salieri and Mozart.  We are introduced to Salieri, who also narrates, when he attempts suicide as an old man.  From a cell in an insane asylum, he tells a young priest his story: he came from an obscure Italian village and ascended to the heights of musical success as court composer for the Emperor Joseph II in Vienna.  A hard-working, devout man who dedicated his life and work to God, he is initially excited to meet the man whom he and all of Europe idolised: Mozart.  Soon, he realises that, however brilliant Mozart may be as a composer and performer, he is a vulgar child-man.  Mozart’s musical genius throws Salieri’s mediocrity into harsh relief, and Salieri’s adoration mutates into hatred.  He devises a complicated scenario to commission a requiem mass from Mozart, planning to murder his rival and pass off the mass as his own at Mozart’s funeral.  Mozart dies, sick and impoverished, before the score is finished.  As Mozart’s posthumous fame grows, Salieri’s celebrity declines – and by the end of the film, he proclaims himself patron saint of mediocrities.

These, then, are the facts.  We will begin with Salieri – our narrator, confessor, and patient.  He is a clear-cut Freudian, a mass of obsessions and repressions.  Freud noted obsessive tendencies in religious people, as we have seen; Salieri takes these tendencies to a fevered pitch.  The abiding obsession of his life is, in Freudian fashion, his parents.  This is not, however, a simple fixation on his biological mother and father.  He hardly mentions his mother at all, and he mentions his father only to express glee that the elder Salieri died – thus removing any obstacle to his son’s relocation to Vienna to study music.  No, Salieri’s “parents” are more abstract than any flesh and blood relations.  His father is God: the cruel, demanding, ruthless God of a far more austere Christianity than the decadent Catholicism everyone else in the film seems to follow.  To please his father, Salieri has vowed to give his chastity, his industry, every hour of his life – if only God will bless him with the gift of music.  That music, for which Salieri has yearned since boyhood, is his mother within the film.  She is the love-object of all love-objects, and he wants only to possess her for his own – and for his father’s – glory.  It is important to note that Salieri seldom speaks of his desire to create music: he simply wants it; it is “like a lust in [his] body.” When he does write music, it is a tedious, painstaking affair – one that we might see as the son’s attempt to rediscover his mother in another, necessarily inferior woman.  He has an idea of the perfect woman in his head – the divine music he worshiped and loved as a boy – and he is consumed by the desire to regain and possess her.

The arrival of Mozart in Salieri’s life is an extraordinarily traumatic event.  Even the middle name of his rival, “Amadeus,” means “beloved by God” – and Mozart does indeed seem to be God’s favoured son.  As mentioned earlier, in Freudian psychoanalysis, the child is extraordinarily jealous of any sexual relations between his parents, and all the more so when those relations produce a sibling.  If we read Salieri’s hatred of Mozart in Freudian terms, he seethes with jealousy because his “parents” have (a) had intercourse with each other, rather than his “mother” having intercourse with him; and (b) seemed to replace him with a more talented, better loved son.  And what a son: Mozart is not only beloved by God, he is also a conduit through which perfect music flows.  Initially, Salieri loved and idolised Mozart – when all he knew of the man was his music, divine music for which Salieri longs.  He soon feels “such hatred for that little man” – setting out to destroy him in the process.  While Salieri is unable to achieve either of his goals (killing Mozart or passing off the completed Requiem Mass as his own work), he nevertheless internalizes his love/hate to such an extent that he becomes one of Freud’s melancholics.  This ending is particularly shocking as, in Kristeva’s words, the depressed person is a sullen atheist.  Salieri has, in some psychological sense, succeeded not only in murdering Mozart, but also in losing his faith.  He directs his rage inward with a straightedge razor to the throat, and watches himself and his music become extinct.  Freud, we must note, placed little emphasis on overcoming mental disorders; all we can do is learn to live with them. “Your merciful God,” laughs Salieri.

While Mozart’s life ends in poverty and obscurity, his story is ultimately far more hopeful than Salieri’s – and this is quite in keeping with Jungian analytic psychology.  Specifically, Mozart represents the trickster; but recall that in Jung’s concept of the trickster archetype, the trickster myth often flows directly into the saviour myth.  This is important, as both of these myths are easily married in the myth of the divine child – and that is, after all, an extraordinarily apt description of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Before getting too carried away with tricksters, saviours, and divine children, we should first investigate Mozart as a Jungian case study, rather than a Freudian.  Since Salieri is the one telling the story, and since he is able to relate only his own thoughts, we are not in a position to know Mozart as intimately as we do Salieri.  Nevertheless, it is clear that he is far from the tortured soul Salieri seems to be.  In fact, he seems to be rather happy and optimistic, even when his fortune deserts him.  Where each new trauma seems to tear another piece from Salieri, Mozart is Jungian wholeness personified: he takes disappointments in stride; he throws lavish parties; he channels his more overwhelming emotions – whether grief or joy – into his music.  He is extraordinarily creative, not only as a brilliant composer: he also delights in fashion (as evidenced by his Freddie Mercury-style frock coats and avant garde pink wigs), word games (such as the backwards game he employs to propose to Constanze), and what we might call musical caricature (his cruel reinterpretation of a tune in the style of Bach, upside-down Bach, and an apelike Salieri).  He seems to be quite self-aware: he tells the Emperor, “I am a vulgar man – but I assure you, my music is not.” He is upset when his domineering and yet beloved father dies; but rather than let it cripple him or send him into crisis, he uses his complicated feelings of guilt and rage to write Don Giovanni – casting, as Salieri says, himself as the dissolute title character and Leopold Mozart as the stern Commendatore who condemns Mozart to Hell.  This is a crucial distinction, not only between Mozart and Salieri, but between Jungian and Freudian concepts: Jung believed that humans create simply because they must, because many of us have some sort of vision of the world that we cannot help sharing, and because it is a natural and healthy thing to do; while Freud seemed to believe that all art must be a symptom of some sexual preoccupation, and does not exist merely for its own sake, nor for its artist’s sake – it is a co-morbidity of a neurotic temperament, and something to be diagnosed and studied rather than admired and appreciated.

However, let us return to the key idea: Mozart as trickster, saviour, and divine child.  Like the trickster, he is an apparently unstoppable force of both creativity and destruction; irreverent in the extreme, challenging the very moral superiority of those around him.  In many respects, he is a fool – a man who never heard a dirty joke that didn’t produce his high-pitched guffaw – and this raucousness alongside his extraordinary musical genius makes him a disruptive presence in Salieri’s life especially, but also in Vienna generally.  He refuses to bow and scrape to the other Italians in the Emperor’s court; arrogance and insubordination are traits often associated with the trickster, but like the jesters and holy fools who are the trickster’s spiritual brothers, he is pointing out the absurdity of talentless and dispassionate foreigners in charge of the imperial court’s musical offerings.  He is, as he says, the best.  Why should he be a servant – to these Italians, to the Emperor, to the Archbishop of Salzburg, or to anyone else?

Indeed, Mozart – as promised by his middle name and by the name of the film – is the divine child, beloved by God.  He is a mercurial, tricky divine child, but divine all the same.  He writes music “as if taking dictation,” never making a correction or an alteration to the perfect musical works he has crafted (or received) in his mind. “Displace one note,” Salieri says, “and there would be diminishment.  Displace one phrase, and the structure would fall.” How is it possible for a man – a mortal man – to create such sublime art with no visible effort, struggle, or difficulty?  Within the scope of Amadeus, it is because he is more than mere mortal: he is divine, and the product of his divinity – his music – will remain immortal.


Works Cited

Amadeus: The Director’s Cut. DVD. Directed by Miloš Forman. [U.S.]: Warner Home Video, 2002.
Freud, Sigmund. 1909. “Family Romances”. In Freud: Complete Works, edited by Ivan Smith. PDF edition.
—. 1939. Moses and Monotheism. In Freud: Complete Works, edited by Ivan Smith. PDF edition.
—. 1984. “Mourning and Melancholia.” In The Pelican Freud Library, Volume 11, On Metapsychology, edited by A. Richards, translated by J. Strachey, 245-268. Middlesex: Penguin.
—. 1907. “Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices”. In Freud: Complete Works, edited by Ivan Smith. PDF edition.
—. 1928. “A Religious Experience”. In Freud: Complete Works, edited by Ivan Smith. PDF edition.
—. 1913. Totem and Taboo. In Freud: Complete Works, edited by Ivan Smith. PDF edition.
Hall, Calvin S. and Vernon J. Nordby. 1973. “The Structure of Personality.” In A Primer of Jungian Psychology, 31-52. New York: Signet.
Jung, C.G. 1974. Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self. Routledge & Kegan Paul: London.
—. 1972. “On the Psychology of the Trickster Figure.” In Four Archetypes: Mother Rebirth Spirit Trickster, 133-152. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
—. 1976. “On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry.” In The Portable Jung, edited by Joseph Campbell, translated by R.F.C. Hull, 301-322. New York: Viking.
Jung, C.G. and Carl Kerényi. 1949. Essays on a Science of Mythology: The Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. New York: Pantheon.
Kristeva, Julia. 1989. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. Translated by L. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press.
Waddell, Terrie. 2006. Mis/Takes: Archetype, Myth and Identity in Screen Fiction. London: Routledge.
—. 2010. Wild/Lives: Trickster, Place and Liminality on Screen. London: Routledge.


3 comments on “Scribbling and bibbling, bibbling and scribbling

  1. Karen
    June 18, 2013

    Wow! Very interesting read. I haven’t seen Amadeus in ages, but have been wanting to watch it again. I’ll look at it from a new perspective now, I think.

    • mcwhirk
      June 18, 2013

      Haha, the “very” is surely overstating things, but I guess I think it’s okay. It was for a class that specifically looked at various psychoanalytic concepts/theories/theorists as they fit into film, so it’s not like I just came up with this out of the blue. As a Nabokovian, I do want to make that crystal-clear!

  2. Pingback: 2015 Movie Challenge: Amadeus | more stars than in the heavens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on June 18, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: