We enjoy watching movies that are based on true stories. The latest movie we watched is Copying Beethoven, with Ed Harris as Beethoven and Diane Kruger as Anna Holtz (a fictional character). While based on a true story, specifically the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, the movie has largely been fictionalized. We still enjoyed the movie very much.
In the movie, Anna Holtz, a young female composer (a rarity in the 1800s) arrived to “copy,” or make legible copies, of Beethoven’s music for his musicians. After a rough start to his relationship with Anna, Beethoven, called “the beast” in the movie, tells Anna, “I’m a very difficult person, Anna Holtz, but I take comfort in the fact that God made me that way.” That was one of our favorite lines in the movie.
Later, in a conversation with Anna, Beethoven describes music this way:
The vibrations on the air are the breath of God speaking to man’s soul. Music is the language of God. We musicians are as close to God as man can be. We hear his voice, we read his lips, we give birth to the children of God, who sing his praise. That’s what musicians are, Anna Holtz. And if we’re not that, we’re nothing.
There’s another great conversation between Beethoven and Anna about silence. Beethoven says …
You have to listen to the voice speaking inside of you. I didn’t even hear it myself until I went deaf. Not that I want you to go deaf, my dear.
You’re telling me that I must find the silence in myself, so I can hear the music.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. Silence is the key. The silence between the notes. When that silences envelops you, then your soul can sing.
That has implications for our relationship with God. We, too, must find the quiet place so that we can hear the still small voice of God speaking to us.
Beethoven’s story is something of a tragic story. Beethoven went deaf, and according to the movie, he was creating a new kind of music toward the end of his life that was not well-received. In the movie, the fictional character Schlemmer (but a compilation of 2 or 3 real people, I understand) complains to Anna, “Who does he write for nowadays? It’s certainly not for money. I’m lucky if I can get anyone to pay for his works.”
While sad, I’m inspired by the fact that Beethoven, at least according to the movie, didn’t simply write for money, he wrote the kind of music he wanted to write. In fact, near the end of the movie, Beethoven describes his final piece as his “bridge to the future of music.” His “bridge” to the future did indeed become a model for future composers.
Beethoven was certainly a creative and musical genius and has left a huge mark on the history of music. And the movie does a good job of sharing his legacy with us.