The Wednesday night film fellowship got together again last night. We are looking at films this month concerning Beauty, the transcendent kind. As I was thinking about films to watch (we may do My Kid Could Paint That next week), Amadeus popped into my head. A no-brainer great film about Beauty and the way God doles it out in the world. As we settled in to watch, I suddenly broke out in a panic, because the experience of first seeing it came sweeping over me. I was in San Diego working as an intern in directing at the Old Globe Theatre, working under Jack O’Brien. O’Brien is an A-list Broadway director who won the Tony for Best Direction of a Play for The Coast of Utopia as well the 2003 Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for Hairspray. In fact, Daniel told me they are studying O’Brien’s work in his Musical Theatre class at Michigan.
Anyway, I saw Amadeus in a theatre with a bunch of people working at the Old Globe that summer. And the force of Antonio Salieri’s descent into madness because of his rage at God over the vast talent of Mozart impacted us deeply. I related so well to Salieri’s fear of mediocrity and being consigned to dustbins of history while others perhaps less deserving (in my small mind of the time) would be heralded throughout the ages.
That was at the beginning of an artistic career that at that moment had enormous potential. I was where I needed to be as an up and coming young director. And now, 24 years later, watching Amadeus unfold again, it seemed likely that when it was over, I would be mired in a sort of defeatist self-examination of my career, which admittedly, has not gone as I thought it might. Would I end the evening in a pool of self-pity, needing Salieri’s absolution, the one he offers to all the crazed “mediocrities” of the world?
Herein lies the power of deep community. Had I been watching alone, I may well have ended in the self-critical pit that offered itself. But no, my friends were there, and after it was over, we talked of what it meant to be chewed up, eaten alive by envy and jealousy, and the odd notion of Salieri’s that you can take God on and win. We wondered together about how and why God hands out gifts they way He does, and why sometimes we seem so incapable of turning the two talents into four, and Jesus would have us do.
I asked everyone what they would tell Salieri if they had been able to catch him at the front end of his jealousy, when he is first meeting Mozart. None of us had any great ideas. And in that, we realized we are all Salieri at times. Always there are more gifted people, people who are further down the line than we toward the very things that are the desires of our deepest hearts.
So here’s a question for you. If you know the film, what would tell Salieri that might have helped him not descend into the madness of his jealousy and bitterness? And if you offer up a scriptural thing, the follow-up question is simply one of application. What are the concrete steps to implement the scriptural directive?