I was only a few months into high school when I first watched the 1984 film adaptation of the Peter Schaefer’s biopic Amadeus, which chronicles the career of famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the lens of his so-called rival, Antonio Salieri. Needless to say, it left a profound impact on me. While most of my peers blasted 2010-2014 era radio music in the school cafeteria, I was reveling in Baroque motets, Romantic-era oratorios and a multitude of pre-Vatican II Mass settings while doing everything in tune to them. Heck, I’d even assign this film as the allegory to everything and the feelings that I experienced in 10th grade. It’s one of the two films, aside from The Karate Kid trilogy that I find myself going back to every now and then, and probably have a good measure of lines memorized from there.
On the other hand, you have Your Lie In April. Yes, I’m aware that I’ve talked about this flick only six months ago, but for the longest time I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between the two flicks presented here. There was something very familiar about watching a communication between two musically-inclined high school students as with the so-called rivalry between a gifted, yet socially awkward musical genius and a proud, crusty court composer in their circumstances, plights, and the classical music motifs covering them. I think now it’s high time I pull this long-awaited comparison from under the rug.
EASTERN COMPETITOR #18: YOUR LIE IN APRIL
Your Lie In April centers around Arima Kousei, a pianist who loses the will to live after his mother’s death, and lives a somber, uninteresting life which is changed when he encounters Kaori Miyazono playing the violin in a park of cherry blossom trees. From there a friendship develops between them, as well as Kousei’s childhood friend Tsubaki Sawabe and Kaori’s “crush” Watari Ryota, and explores their musical accompaniment and journey through life. Originally, it came in 2011 through the form of an 11-volume manga by Naoshi Arakawa which critics attacked as flat, generic, way too adult and void of any raw moments, but made breakthrough in 22 episodes from October 2014 to April 2015, directed by former Fairy Tail and Psycho Pass director Kyohei Ishiguro, making his sole-supervised debut in directing this work.
In contrast, the anime adaptation, made by A-1 Pictures, the same studio that directed the Sword Art Online franchise as well as Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (allegedly another tear-jerker type of story), Black Butler, and eventually Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, is widely considered a classic by both critics and fans, by taking everything that Arakawa’s manga had, and complimenting it with strong visuals, character dynamic, emotional delivery and its touching soundtrack. The impact of the anime left such a deep impression on the story from a public perspective, that a live-action film was released in 2016 and an upcoming stage musical production.
WESTERN COMPETITOR #18: AMADEUS
When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on 5 December of 1791 in Vienna, in the decades following, rumours would circulate that his death came at the order of Antonio Salieri, who by the time of his death in 1825 had great experience in architecting operas for the Austrian imperial court. This theory, proven false by recent historians, was popularized in a forgotten Russian play by Alexander Pushkin. More than a century later, this topic would be revived by Peter Schaefer in 1979, at a higher budget and a more elaborate stage than its spiritual predecessor. Following successful ventures at the British, American and Australian theatres, in which it won three theatrical awards, it was branded into a movie five years later, directed by Milos Forman which captured Salieri’s animosity towards Mozart: the man, his music, ideals, and most of all, his complaint with God over inspiring such a man to produce beautiful works of music, and his determination to capture his talent, even at the cost of feigning a passive-aggressive friendship with him and sacrificing his dignity. It featured Tom Hulce (Quasimodo from Disney’s The Hunchback Of Notre Dame), F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Berridge and Roy Dotrice as Mozart, Salieri, Mozart’s wife Constanze and his overbearing father Leopold.
The film proved to be a smashing hit, winning eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Screenplay Adaptation and Best Costume Design; and in an ironic twist, F. Murray Abraham experienced his first (and only) Oscar success winning the Best Actor award over Tom Hulce; amongst other international awards like the British Academy Film Awards, the Golden Globes and the Japan Academy Film Prize.
The two flicks appear to be inversions – Amadeus has Salieri, a successful musician, decline to obscurity over his jealousy of Mozart’s music while Your Lie In April stars a depressed, musically sterile student named Kousei revive his talent thanks to a goofy yet energetic violinist named Kaori. However, that does not stop elements of their stories from pervading in their character personalities, background circumstances, their themes and its impact on the story were what drew me to acknowledge these two as similar.
CATEGORY #1: KAORI .VS. MOZART
If anything holds together Amadeus and Your Lie In April most, it’s Kaori Miyazono and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as they are the ones who give this film life, brilliance, and purpose. For one thing, they’re quite eccentric; Kaori’s the most expressive of the leads, and has a very headstrong personality that contrasts Kousei’s quiet behaviour while Mozart is a playful individual, his first appearance being him chasing after future wife Constanze in a game of hide-and-seek, with a very obnoxious laugh to advertise. They’re outspoken and very honest about what they think of others, most especially their ambitions, and in their splendidly animated musical performances. Kaori’s violinizing earns her the admiration of the audience, and the ire of some within the inner circle just as Mozart’s music is a hit, but his style and preferences put him in conflict with the Emperor’s aides and even state policies. Most of all, they’re hardworking, very passionate, and sadly their lives would be cut short by illness, with their last scene being with their respective counterparts in a musical setting (Kaori with Kousei in a dream-like duet performance, Mozart with Salieri writing his famous Requiem at night).
But they are different in certain respects. Kaori’s relationship with her peers is good, while Mozart’s is at times, contentious, be it with his strict father Leopold, his employers, and even his own family struggles to put up with his tactics sometimes. Mozart, however, possesses a superhuman ability to draft musical scores on the first try alone, while Kaori practices a lot. Their struggles are, on one hand, financial and social due to Mozart’s lavish spending and his workaholic tendencies while Kaori’s only hinges on that of the medical spectrum, as she faints and suffers a debilitating bone disease; so while they’re bonded by common interests, they’re still distinguishable at some parts.
That being said, I think Kaori’s character is the more interesting because she is treated as a person, highlighting both strengths (musical ability) and weaknesses (poor constitution), and emphasizing her determination to overcome those. In addition, she’s a more down-to-earth character with lifelike sensibilities and actions that properly correspond to what we expect from her. Don’t get me wrong, Mozart can appear as that, since at his core he’s a flawed man facing (and chasing) after demons, but he changes very little from one frame to another, and stays in his own box. The fact that almost everyone treats him as a musical legend with little exploration into his personal life didn’t help nuance that either.
YOUR LIE IN APRIL 1-0 AMADEUS
CATEGORY #2: KOUSEI .VS. SALIERI
I know what you’re thinking: “Salieri and Kousei have very little in common with each other. One is a meek, unassuming, and relatively amateur pianist while the other is an accomplished court composer with a mean streak.” True, and while their outcomes are miles apart from each other, who they were/become matters. Perhaps the most astonishing facet of their character is their poor relationship with a parental figure: for Salieri, it’s twofold – with his earthly father in the first half, and God in the second half, going to the point of angrily blaming Him for putting Mozart’s music as subjectively leagues above his, while for Arima Kousei the cruel treatment he suffers at the hands of his mother, who despite her intention to craft him into a musician with a future, only gives him PTSD at the thought of touching a piano, symbolized by him drowning. Which brings me to the second point; their musical rigidity. Salieri and Kousei are ardent to following the letter of the score, with very little theoretical variation to their works which become the source of grief and anguish for them.
They are also by far their stories’ most developed characters. Amadeus is told from Salieri’s perspective, however untrustworthy it may be, and details everything that led to his current confinement in a mental hospital: his admiration of Mozart, desire to become an esteemed musician, his father’s disapproval and death, and the outrage he feels at seeing his boyhood hero be an uncouth rockstar. He transforms from the pious, charming and model individual he boasted of to a bitter, jealous two-faced monster, as he actively plots Mozart’s death and delights in using trickery to steal his glory, by passing off Mozart’s Requiem as his own. (In reality, it was an Austrian count that commissioned it, but that’s beside the point) From the moment he utters the words, “From now on, we are enemies, You and I… I will hinder and harm Your creature for as long as I live”, his life becomes a total war between him and God, continuing his sanity slippage that consumes his very existence but, in effect, reveals a lot about him as he flips between seething rage at envying Mozart’s talent and unbridled desperation to acquire it for himself.
Like the above, Arima Kousei is the lead narrator of Your Lie In April; the whole story is about his ascent, rather than descent, into redemption. Initially he’s where Salieri was at Amadeus‘ conclusion, in the dumps and terribly isolated from the world and transcribing music when he’s on break in class. But before that, he was an award-winning child prodigy, winning piano competition after competition and gaining the secret admiration of fellow competitors Emi and Takeshi, who admired his precision and made surpassing him their life goal. The abuse he suffered from his mother causes him to internalizes the painful memories. Once he meets Kaori at the park, so rings the words “My life changed. Everything… started to take on color.” Bit by bit, he learns to not only readjust his attitude towards music, but to heal himself and love again, especially with Kaori whose constant involvement he begins to appreciate, and rely on as his support. Finally, he becomes independent, free-spirited, joy-filled and a more thankful person as he walks towards his future.
I personally found Salieri’s story engaging, despite its nature. Kousei felt a bit cheesy and stereotypical in his coming-of-age growth, and throughout his high points and lows, the series mostly highlighted the latter and wasn’t ashamed to make the most of those rather than balancing him out; Kaori had to force out those other emotions. On the other hand, Salieri’s backstory, ambitions were powerfully demonstrated throughout the film, and allowed for us a clear picture of him in a manner that covered multiple spectrums of emotion – all of his own accord, making him one of the movie’s most famous components.
AMADEUS 1-1 YOUR LIE IN APRIL
CATEGORY #3: MUSICAL COMMUNICATION
Your Lie In April uses quiet, slow, and introspective-sounding songs from the Romantic era while Amadeus forays the loud, fast and explosive tunes common to the tumultuous Classical period. It cannot be denied though that the manner in which they are used is deserving of some mention as a major component by playing a major role in different ways to lead the characters’ thoughts and beliefs.
For example, in one of my favourite scenes from Amadeus, Constanze gives Salieri a copy of her husband’s musical repertoire – original manuscripts, in fact. He pours through them, and hearing the music in his head he describes it in glorious, glowing terms: “Displace one note, and there would be diminishment… here again was the very voice of God.” Salieri instantly recognizes it as a masterpiece – a weapon that he must attain at all costs, yet is far beyond his reach. The selection of music accompanies the perceived beauty which Salieri experiences, making Mozart look like a divine entity. Your Lie In April has music as a precious gift to be cherished and nurtured – with Kousei convincing himself through Kaori: “You don’t have to be Chopin. Play the piece as if you wrote it, and give the performance of a lifetime!” and proudly declares “Music is freedom” – not as his mother’s Pharisaical reading of it. There are not as many musical segments as with the former, but there are many variations and styles that the anime makes use of to diversify its soundtrack, which synthesizes with the episodes – and like the above serves to communicates itself in visually entailing details of what the player wishes to emote to the audience.
I like the ear candy of Amadeus‘ numerous musical offerings, and have been introduced to many wonderful tracks that I still listen to, and remember fondly; however, the movie makes it to be a weapon for battle, a motif for frustration. Not so with Your Lie In April as it uses music in multiple degrees – to motivate, intimidate, inspire, frustrate, and heal. Even if Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninov are not my cup of tea, I can still appreciate that the series allows the music to evolve beyond just notes, and as a tool of mutual impact for all involved.
YOUR LIE IN APRIL 2-1 AMADEUS
CATEGORY #4: INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Mozart and Salieri’s correspondence is exactly what it purports to be: a rivalry, albeit under many layers. To the viewer, Salieri makes his hatred of Mozart no secret; with Fr. Vogler he confesses, without remorse, how much he loved his music, and yet hated the man before him; the perceived humiliation he felt at what he saw as his mediocrity, and the glee at imagining him die at his own hands. However, in person, he acts like a friend, mentor, and a confidant – “consoling” him when a count angrily rips out pages of his music, speaking wondrously about his pieces and looking after him when he collapses during a performance, and staying overnight to work on the Requiem as a brother; to which Mozart reciprocates every positive affirmation he gives him – with his last words thanking him for being by his bedside and appreciating his work; unaware of the inner turmoil that burdened the man before him. It’s complex, slightly over-the-top and full of tension, but that’s what defined the film.
Kaori and Kousei’s story does not begin in the first episode, but rather long before. Like Salieri with Mozart in his youth, Kousei was Kaori’s musical inspiration, enveloping when she first sees him at a concert, and is amused by his ways. Years later, they finally connect and regularly enter interactions with one another, which were defined by how well they compliment each other. When they’re on stage together, no matter how far off Kousei collapses, she is there to support him, and he can understand her feelings as well. They support each other both on-stage and off-stage; Kousei makes time to visit her when she is in the hospital due to her condition, and Kaori is quick to offer words of advice to the young performer and get his feet back on track. They get each other to be unafraid to take risks, and strive for greater heights than before. Through this they are like shipmates weathering a storm together, finding ways to outsmart it and reach their destination.
Amadeus and Your Lie In April both had characters who clicked with, and were integral in influencing each other’s directions in life. Whether it’s for better or for worse, the fact is that their showing of it is the reason why both series proved successful with their audiences. If I had to pick one that had the bigger impact, of course I’m going to pick Salieri and Mozart’s – their chemistry – or lack of – was a fresh take on them, and its execution just top-notch while Kaori/Kousei seems as having been ostensibly repeated many times over in other anime.
AMADEUS 2-2 YOUR LIE IN APRIL
CATEGORY #5: THEMATIC DEPICTION OF MORALS
For the characters themselves, the use of interpersonal and musical elements within them, and most especially, the lessons they offered for our reflection, these were what cemented both series’ enduring legacy. In the case of Your Lie In April and Amadeus these existed with two opposing forces – humility and pride, respectively – being shown, their roots and the direction it led for both characters.
Kaori Miyazono is shown to be caring little for personal glory as much as making people happy with her music, and finds herself with many friends, admirers, and a colourful world; this in spite of the fact that she has a short temper, is notoriously sick, and has little to musically offer of great value. What she has, however, is a great wisdom and a desire to spread that joy to others, not for her own personal gain but theirs. Kousei follows suit – his personality makes him very accepting of both criticism and praise, which after meeting Kaori allows him to make great strides towards letting go of his bad memories, and make a fresh leap into life. He humbled himself, recognizing his poor lifestyle, found a friend in music and Kaori to reanimate his ways, and without being too boastful, wonders are made as his life experiences a dramatic upheaval and upwards sanctification – as Christ says in St. Matthew 23:12: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Rather than envying her, Kousei sees merit in her musical performances, and is inspired, despite his own trauma, to collaborate with her, learn the true beauty of music, and play it effectively again.
Let us see how the opposing film demonstrates their lesson. Mozart, for example, presumes himself as the best musician in Vienna, despite being told that he isn’t the only one of his kind. He views himself highly and his ego gets to the point that he alienates others, is too impatient with potential pupils, and looks down on others who do not recognize his talent – like one scene pathetically asking to tutor a his now-married former pupil, living in Mannheim, and then begging for money only to be rebuffed. Despite having a family, he splurges his earnings on alcohol and partying instead of writing music. Salieri too falls victim to this. Recall his childhood, when he asks God to make him a musician who will be remembered by all, citing it as his proudest prayer. He goes on to boast about his music’s popularity, extols his virtuous ways, and all for naught when seeing Mozart’s degeneracy. He questions if God wanted to use Mozart to humble him; blinded by pride he rejects him (and Him), plunging into a deep-seated obsession with one-upping him. In both characters do we see “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”, St. James 4:6 remarks on the flipside; down the gutter do both characters’ lives go when they fail to swallow their pride.
What was great about the thematic depiction of both films was how prominently they were used, clear in their illustration, and linear with their start and finish. But when it comes to which one executed this best, my point goes to Amadeus, because it was more obvious, dramatic, and had higher artistic depth in reinforcing it. Your Lie In April does have that motif, albeit obscured amidst the striking visuals, love triangle and half-arsed attempt at comedy or splitting into sideshows. Not that they weren’t unnecessary, but a bit distracting to the overall moral message of sorts. To close, it’s Amadeus that gets this week’s honour of having the best display of character between the two.
FINAL SCORE: AMADEUS 3-2 YOUR LIE IN APRIL
Many things can be said about Amadeus – inaccurate, biased, and aggrandized; but that’s what makes it so compelling as a movie. Through the characters, and the actors who captured every feeling and nailed the roles they were to convey, they give us insight into humanity that many of us can relate to at times. Its music is powerful and enhances the story, giving it a sensory component that enables our imaginative curiosity. When you put them together, it’s no wonder that this film has received all the accolades and recognition that it’s received in the nearly four decades since it’s premiered. It’s no wonder this is one of the many films that have changed my worldview, and sits atop my list of favourites; I look forward to rewatching it again during a weekend or so. Granted, even though Your Lie In April comes leagues below this in terms of memorability or impact, I still acknowledge it’s a wonderful story that carries plenty of emotional weight, and a happier and more positive message to boot – just not at the same pace as Peter Schaeffer’s original work.