Beethoven in film

Poster for Gance’s Un grand amour de Beethoven

The composer Ludwig van Beethoven has been the subject of a number of biographical films.

The Life of Beethoven (German: Das Leben des Beethoven) is a 1927 Austrian silent drama film directed by Hans Otto and starring Fritz Kortner as Beethoven.

Un grand amour de Beethoven was directed in 1937 by Abel Gance; it stars Harry Baur.

Eroica is a 1949 Austrian film depicting the life and works of Beethoven (Ewald Balser). It was entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival. The film is directed by Walter Kolm-Veltée, produced by Guido Bagier with Walter Kolm-Veltée and written by Walter Kolm-Veltée with Franz Tassié.

Ludwig van Beethoven is a 1954 documentary directed by Max Jaap in the GDR that presents the life of Beethoven. Original documents, letters and photos are combined with highlights of Beethoven’s musical oeuvre.

In 1962, Walt Disney produced a made-for-television, largely fictionalised, life of Beethoven titled The Magnificent Rebel, starring Karlheinz Böhm as Beethoven. The film was given a two-part premiere on the Walt Disney anthology television series, and was released to theatres in Europe.

CopyingbeethovenNEWComposer and film-maker Mauricio Kagel made Ludwig van in 1969 after the work was commissioned by German broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk for the bicentenary of Beethoven’s birth in 1970. The first part of the film is shot from the point of view of Beethoven, who walks around late 1960s Bonn, including paying a visit to his birthplace. The second part includes a number of scenes focussing on modern day perceptions of Beethoven. The film’s published score was constructed by Kagel from random pages from Beethoven’s compositions, which had been used to decorate the Beethoven-Haus in the film, and the score’s performance instructions allowed performers a great deal of leeway in interpreting it, giving them license to follow the pages in any order, omit pages, and to incorporate Beethoven music not already included in the score. In fact, Kagel’s own recording of the film score is based on extracts of Beethoven’s works not present in the published version. The film was controversial at the time and received a generally hostile critical reception in both West and East Germany.

Beethoven – Days in a Life is a 1976 feature film directed by Horst Seemann and produced by the former East German DEFA Studio for Feature Film. Beethoven is portrayed by Donatas Banionis. The film covers Beethoven’s life in Vienna between 1813 and 1819.

Neil Munro portrayed Beethoven in the 1992 Canadian television movie Beethoven Lives Upstairs; it won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.

Poster for Copying Beethoven

Gary Oldman portrayed Beethoven in the 1994 film Immortal Beloved, written and directed by Bernard Rose. The story follows Beethoven’s secretary and first biographer, Anton Schindler (played by Jeroen Krabbé), as he attempts to ascertain the true identity of the Unsterbliche Geliebte (Immortal Beloved) addressed in three letters found in the composer’s private papers after his death.

In 2003 a made-for-television BBC/Opus Arte film Eroica dramatised the 1804 first performance of the Eroica Symphony at the palace of Prince Lobkowitz. Ian Hart was cast as Beethoven, while Jack Davenport played Prince Lobkowitz; the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner perform the Symphony in its entirety during the film.

In a 2005 three-part BBC miniseries, Beethoven was played by Paul Rhys.

A movie entitled Copying Beethoven was released in 2006, starring Ed Harris as Beethoven. This film is a fictionalised account of Beethoven’s production of his Ninth Symphony.

magnificent rebel - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpg

A proud and ambitious student arrives in Vienna hoping to be the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His name is Ludwig van Beethoven and he is THE MAGNIFICENT REBEL. Here’s the factual account of a great composer driven to succeed despite his long battle against deafness. Filmed in and around Vienna where Beethoven actually lived and worked – the international cast is headed by Austrian actor-classical pianist Carl Boehm, who bears a striking resemblance to the man he portrays. Highlighted are the immortal works of the master (including the haunting “Moonlight Sonata” and the stirring “Fifth Symphony”). THE MAGNIFICENT REBEL is a magnificent film on all counts.

Ludwig van Beethoven – Karlheinz Böhm
Karl Amenda – Peter Arens
Landlord’s Daughter – Gabriele Barth
Schuppanzigh – Bruno Dallansky
Prince Lichnowsky – Ivan Desny
Count Guicciardi – Erik Frey
Blind Boy – Oliver Grimm
Franz Josef Haydn – Ernst Nadherny
Countess Giulietta – Giulia Rubini
Landlord – Guido Wieland
French Colonel – Erich Winn

1. Walt Disney’s Introduction
2. Vienna
3. Royal Performance
4. The Countess Giulietta
5. Unrequited
6. A Public Performance
7. Career Ascending
8. A Dear Friend Returns
9. “Beethoven Is Deaf!”
10. Napoleon Invades Vienna
11. The Blind Boy
12. A New Beginning


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Fritz Kortner – Das Leben des Beethoven/The Life of the Beethoven (1927, Hans Otto) | Weimar |



Beethoven Lives Upstairs

Beethoven Lives Upstairs is a Canadian 1992 HBO Original Films TV movie produced and directed by David Devine. Based on a very popular children’s audio recording written and directed by Barbara Nichol, the film stars Illya Woloshyn as Christoph, a young boy who develops a friendship with composer Ludwig van Beethoven (Neil Munro), a boarder in the boy’s parents’ house. The film was shot in Prague in the Czech Republic and has been broadcast in over 110 countries in numerous languages and has sold over one million DVDs and is used extensively in U.S. and Canadian elementary and middle school music classrooms.

The film went on to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program in 1993, was nominated for numerous Gemini Awards, and was also admitted to the Permanent Collection in the Paley Center for Media in New York City.



Christoph’s father, a physician, has died, forcing his family to rent their upstairs room to a boarder to make ends meet. Christoph’s uncle Kurt, a student at the Vienna Conservatory, arranges for Beethoven to rent the room. Kurt is thrilled at the prospect of having the famous composer living at his brother’s house, despite Beethoven’s dismissive attitude toward him, but Christoph doesn’t like the idea of a stranger living with them. Christoph’s fears are confirmed when he encounters Beethoven’s rude and eccentric behavior, and teasing from the neighborhood children.

When Sophie, their housekeeper, suggests that Beethoven is a heavy drinker, Christoph surreptitiously follows him on one of his walks. Beethoven’s mannerisms, including humming to himself (presumably composing as he walks), and dumping soup on a waiter following an argument, convinces Christoph that Beethoven is a madman. Christoph complains to Kurt, who talks about the pain of Beethoven’s deafness and implores Christoph to give him a chance. Kurt mentions that Beethoven is working on his Ninth Symphony; Christoph says he hopes it’s his last.

When Christoph’s mother enters Beethoven’s room, Beethoven is writing music on the shutters, presumably having run out of paper. Seeing her shock, he suggests she could sell the shutters as collectors items. He asks her about her musical background, and she plays Für Elise for him, beginning to see his softer side.

While working with musicians on the Ninth Symphony in his room, Beethoven needs to write down changes, but all the pens have been destroyed in his previous fits. They frantically send Christoph out to buy some. By the time he returns with the pens, the other musicians have left. Beethoven invites Christoph to join him on his walk. The two begin to open up to one another, with Beethoven talking about his unhappy memories of his father.

When Sophie comes down from Beethoven’s room, fuming after yet another quarrel, Christoph defends him. After overhearing Beethoven talk about his misery from being deaf, Christoph gives him an ear trumpet made by his father.

Kurt comes over to the house for another rehearsal with Beethoven, beaming that he’s been selected to be part of the orchestra at the premiere of the Ninth Symphony. The singers complain about the difficulty of their parts, but Beethoven reassures them he wouldn’t have chosen them if he didn’t think they were capable. When he sees Christoph and his mother listening outside the door, he promises them tickets to the performance.

As the date of the concert nears, Beethoven is increasingly stressed and frustrated by setbacks. Christoph enters after Beethoven has had another quarrel with Sophie, and accidentally spills the sheet music for the concert. Beethoven angrily chases him out. Christoph fears that Beethoven now hates him and won’t give him the tickets, but Kurt reassures him that Beethoven’s notorious tempers are short-lived and that someone able to write music as he does must have a great heart. Later, Beethoven apologizes to Sophie for his behavior and gives her the tickets to give to Christoph and his mother.

The concert is a great success. Even though Beethoven is nominally conducting, he is unable to hear the orchestra, and a second conductor discreetly conducts from the side. When the orchestra finishes, Beethoven is behind and still “conducting,” so Kurt and one of the sopranos turn him around so he can see the audience giving him a wild standing ovation.

Several years later, after Beethoven’s death, Christoph reflects on his experiences with Beethoven, saying that while Beethoven is gone, “his music will never die.” Beethoven “thought he could change the world with his music — maybe he will… bit by bit.”


  • Neil Munro as Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Illya Woloshyn as Christoph
  • Fiona Reid as Mother
  • Paul Soles as Mr. Schindler
  • Albert Schultz as Uncle Kurt
  • Sheila McCarthy as Sophie the maid
Directed by David Devine
Produced by David Devine
Richard Mozer
Terence Robinson
Written by Heather Conkie
Starring Illya Woloshyn
Neil Munro
Fiona Reid
Paul Soles
Cinematography David Perrault
Edited by Rik Morden
Release date
Running time
51 min.
Country Canada
Language English

The Genius of Beethoven (2005 TV Mini)


Here’s a fantastic BBC-produced 3 episode dramatization/documentary of Beethoven’s life as narrated by Charles Hazlewood and portrayed by Paul Rhys.  Absolutely entertaining and informative.  Recommended!

1st Episode : The Rebel
2nd Episode : Love and Loss
3rd Episode : Faith and Fury


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Ludwig (2016)


Napoleon (1955)

All right, Beethoven is not the subject of this film. But he appears in one scene. Here’s the decription of it…

A close shot of Beethoven shows him playing the last bars of his Appassionnata. Then the cameras pan out: Beethoven is playing for the Habsbourg court. Marie-Louise of Habsbourg-Lorraine sees the portrait of Napoléon, hung on the chimney-breast. She becomes green with rage… Soon calmed, she sits down.

Beethoven therefore plays the first movement of the Eroica Symphony. Marie-Louise recognises the music, gets up, vexed, and starts shouting again. But her father explains that she must marry Napoléon; Marie-Louise calms down again, and excuses herself to Beethoven…

Then a general of France, a diplomat, invited by the Court, begins talking to Beethoven: “Ah! You dedicated it first to Bonaparte!”. Beethoven replies: ” Ah yes… But then I crossed out his name… I wrote “Eroica – Symphony for a Great Man”… like that we can guess that it’s for him… It’s best that way “…

Napoleon_SachaGuitry_1955_AfficheNapoléon – Film realised by Sacha Guitry in 1955, produced by Clément Duhour.
With Daniel Gélin (Bonaparte), Raymond Pellegrin (Napoléon), Orson Welles (Sir Hudson Lowe), Michèle Morgan (Joséphine de Beauharnais), Gaby Morlay (Silvana Pampanini), Patachou (Madame Sans-Gêne), Jean Marais (Comte de Montholon), Erich von Stroheim (Ludwig van Beethoven), Yves Montand (Maréchal Lefèbvre), Jean Gabin (Maréchal Lannes), Danielle Darrieux, Pierre Brasseur, Serge Reggiani, Henri Vidal…
Duration: 140 minutes.

Eric von Stroheim, in the role of Beethoven




An Immortal Spirit” is a Canadian film which would qualify as a musical documentary if it weren’t for the writer. It is, in fact, a truly astonishing biographical and choreographic staging of the 10 th String Quartet, “Harp”.

The DVD alternates between a documentary on the life of Beethoven, combining documents of the time, modern images and video and the variations for piano and violin on a theme of Beethoven, with the staging of the quartet.

This is a very great success!


At 32 years of age, in his famous Heiligenstadt Testament, Beethoven confessed that his deafness was beginning to become troublesome: thus begins this DVD dedicated to Beethoven, a portrait of this solitary genius who was nevertheless loved by all of Vienna and, above all, the many aristocrats who more or less offered him a life pension for some time…

Through the surroundings of his existence, underlined by divers visual documents – paintings, sketches, and manuscripts – we skillfully follow the traces of the errant composer through the wanderings of his brain.

The actor Pascal Contamine playing the character presents a true resemblance with certain portraits we all know; like, increase, the director does not comment on the gross error of the to make to talk, the illusion is disconcerting.

All that about his 10 th string quartet for 2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello – “Harp”, opus 74, under the fingers of the Claudel String Quartet – four pretty ladies all in blue – because the talk is accompanied by a complete performance of the quartet, every movement illustrating such and such an atmosphere or humor of the composer, as if were being conceived before our very eyes and ears.

Here is an excellent didactic DVD, of exceptional quality, at a reduced price and accompanied by two audio CDs. More than business: a veritable pleasure!


Produced by Cine Qua non
Script by Bernard Hébert
Choreography by Estelle Clareton

Pascal Contamine: Beethoven
Rachel Harris: the aristocrat
Daniel Firth: nephew
Annie Parent: a pupil
Élaine Marcil: a pupil

and the Claudel Quartet.

Narrator: Vlasta Vrana


This film is available on DVD, together with two audio CDs in a magnificent box.

1 DVD video 52”53′ + 2 audio CDs: 73”14′ and 78”34′
DVD: All zones – all formats 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital – DTS – Sound 5:1 Surrounding

Commentaries in French, English, Spanish, Italian, with subtitles.

DVD String Quartet No.10 in E flat major, Op 74 Movement I – 10’08 Movement II – 10’47 Movement III – 5’20 Movement IV – 7’14 Total time: 52’53 CD 1 SYMPHONY No. 5 in C minor Op. 67 1. Allegro con brio 8:05 2. Andante con moto 11:21 3. Allegro 8:53 4. Allegro-presto 8:52 5. MONDSCHEIN SONATA in C sharp minor Op. 27/2: Adagio 5:34 6. FRÜHLINGS SONATA in F major Op. 24 for violin & piano: Allegro 10:07 7. OVERTURE EGMONT Op. 84 8:22 8. FÜR ELISE 2:46 9. ROMANCE for violin & orchestra in F major Op. 50 9:09 Total: 73:14 Staatskapelle Dresden, Herbert Blomstedt (1-4) Misha Goldstein, piano (5,8) Emmy Verhey, violin Carlos Moerdijk, piano (6) Berliner Symphoniker, Peter Wohlert (7) Emmy Verhey, violin Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hans Vonk (9) CD 2 1. PIANO CONCERTO No. 5 in E flat major Op. 73 “Emperor”: Allegro 20:13 2. VIOLIN CONCERTO in D major Op. 61: Larghetto 9:49 3. MASS in C major Op. 86: Gloria 7:55 4. SONATA PATHETIQUE in C minor Op. 13: Adagio 4:42 5. CORIOLAN OVERTURE Op. 62 8:40 6. ROMANCE for violin and orchestra in G major Op. 40 7:38 7. SYMPHONY No. 6 “PASTORAL’ in F major Op. 68: Szene am Bach 12:40 8. VIOLIN SONATA in G major Op. 30/3: Allegro assai 6:47 Total: 78:34 Shoko Sugitani, piano Berliner Symphoniker, Gerard Oskamp (1) Emmy Verhey, violin Utrecht Symphony Orchestra, Hans Vonk (2,6) Slovak Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, Anton Nanut (3) Misha Goldstein, piano (4) Berliner Symphoniker, Peter Wohlert (5) Staatskapelle Dresden, Herbert Blomstedt (7) Emmy Verhey, violin Carlos Moerdijk, piano (8)

  • Directors: Bernar Hebert
  • Format: Import, Box set, Color, NTSC
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Studio: Brilliant Classics
  • Run Time: 52.0 minutes


The film is available in “The Mauricio Kagel Edition” 
(2 CD + DVD)

Soon after May 1968, Mauricio Kagel, an Argentinian musician, launched himself into film making. “Ludwig van” is the first of his productions.

Film_LudwigVan_SalleMusiqueThe black and white film is intentionally dislodged, disturbed, disrespectful, even aggressive.

Here, there is no story. The film is constituted of a series of scenes, without connection between them. At the start we are in the presence of a half deaf Beethoven, represented in a subjective way, so that the spectator becomes the composer. Thus we tour the places where Beethoven lived: his desk, covered entirely with pieces of music; his cellar, storeroom filled with bottles of wine; his hay loft, where he stacks the scores of composers of the XIX and XX centuries; his bathroom, in which the bathtub is full of busts of… Beethoven, which we take one after the other.

The tone is striking: not a documentary reportage, not a biographical film or anecdote, Kagel provokes us, takes us by surprise, irritates us.

Then, we are present, in the confusion, at a laughable televised dispute over Beethoven and his music; an evaluation of his physical capacities, morales and phsychies of the music of Beethoven on the performers (this part is one of the more humorous); in one interview, in a field, of a descendant of Beethoven…

There are many other scenes, which cover subjects such as the hearing of the composer, the analysis of his skull, the course of musical television, the analysis of the texts of Beethoven (notably his conversation notebooks), etc.

The film ends at the zoo, by the scenes presenting the animals in the most stupid attitudes possible, indeed even scatological.

The music of Beethoven is reviewed with talent by Mauricio Kagel.


There is also a collection of scores, created by Mauricio Kagel, dated 1970.

It is composed of photos of details of a fragment covered in musical notes (see photo above). There are some 45 scores in curious forms which Kagel offers to the imagination of the musicians.

Kagel’s objective is to give the understanding that the interpretations of music of the past should be like music of the present.

Alexandre Tharaud takes on the challenge in the recording opposite.


 1. Pieces (8) for Organ (from ‘Rrrrrrr…’): Ragtime – Waltz
  2. Pieces (8) for Organ (from ‘Rrrrrrr…’): Rondeña (piano à quatre mains)
  3. Pieces (8) for Organ (from ‘Rrrrrrr…’): Rosalie
  4. Pieces (8) for Organ (from ‘Rrrrrrr…’): Rossignols enrhumés (piano préparé)
  5. Pieces (8) for Organ (from ‘Rrrrrrr…’): Râga
  6. Ludwig van, film score: I
  7. Ludwig van, film score: II
  8. Ludwig van, film score: III
  9. Ludwig van, film score: IV
  10. Ludwig van, film score: V
  11. Ludwig van, film score: VI
  12. Ludwig van, film score: VII
  13. Ludwig van, film score: VIII
  14. Ludwig van, film score: IX
  15. Der Eid des Hippokrates (‘Hippocrates’ oath’), for piano, 3 hands
  16. Unguis Incarnatus Est, for piano & any bass sustaining instrument
  17. Mm51, for piano
  • Performer: Alexandre Tharaud, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Francois Le Roux, Ronald Van Spaendonck, Eric Le Sage, et al.
  • Composer: Mauricio Kagel
  • Audio CD (July 8, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Aeon (France)
  • ASIN: B00008URYH




Pierre Jourdan captured Fidelio on film at the Théâtre antique d’Orange in 197?. The musical direction by Zubin Mehta is assured, and he conducts the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the chorus of the New Philharmonia.

The bill announces: “By the power of love, liberty triumphs over tyranny”.

In the principal roles:

Fidelio_PierreJourdan_AfficheGundula Janovitz
– Jon Vickers
– William Wildermann
– Theo Adams
– Stella Richmond
– Misha Raitzin.

As for the costumes worn by the actors on the posters, they are a blend of history and the modern world.

Between 1968 and 1977 Pierre Jourdan directed several cinematographic and audiovisual adaptations of tragedies and operas (Phèdre, Le Trouvère, Tristan and Isolde, Norma, Aïda, Fidelio…).

Jon Vickers en Florestan dans le “Fidelio de Beethoven”, en février 1961 à Covent Garden. Le chanteur canadien, mort le 10 juillet à Toronto, pose ici avec Sena Jurinac qui tenait le rôle de Leonora.


The Tenth Symphony (French: La Dixième Symphonie) is a 1918 silent French drama film directed by Abel Gance.

Directed by Abel Gance
Produced by Louis Nalpas
Written by Abel Gance
Starring Séverin-Mars
Music by Michel-Maurice Levy
Cinematography Léonce-Henri Burel
Edited by Marguerite Beaugé
Release date

1 November 1918

Running time
94 minutes
Country France
Language Silent
French intertitles


Rich orphan Eve Dinant has fallen under the spell of the charming but evil Fred Rice. She becomes his mistress and he induces her to murder his sister. She rapidly understands that she cannot go on living with such a despicable man and decides to leave him. She gives him money to buy his silence.

A couple of years later, she meets the famous composer Enric Damor and they get married. Enric’s daughter, Claire, meets by chance Fred and falls in love with him. With Enric’s approval, Fred proposes marriage and comes frequently to visit his fiancée. Eve is determined not to let Fred marry Claire and, as he refuses to listen to her, she tells her husband that the wedding must not take place. Enric does not understand his wife’s behaviour and when Fred let him find a letter sent by Claire to him, he asks her whether she is in love with Fred. Rather than confessing her past, Eve tells him that she does love him.

Enric is flabbergasted when he hears about his wife’s betrayal, but he sublimates his sufferings to create a masterpiece, his Tenth Symphony, on the theme of Women’s betrayal. Fred offers Eve not to marry Claire if she comes back to him. She accepts and he writes a curt breakup letter to his fiancée. Enric is devastated with his wife’s absence and Claire goes to Fred’s house, determined to take revenge and have Eve come back. She threatens him with a gun but Eve tries to dissuade her from killing him. While they are arguing, Fred draws his own gun and after pointing it at them, turns it against himself and shoots himself. Eve tells Claire how she had shot Fred’s sister in the same room. Eve can now go back to Enric, her true love.


  • Séverin-Mars as Composer Enric Damor
  • Jean Toulout as Frederic ‘Fred’ Ryce
  • Emmy Lynn as Eve Dinant
  • Ariane Hugon as Dancer
  • André Lefaur as Marquis de Groix St-Blaise
  • Elizabeth Nizan as Claire Damor


This film was produced by the production company Le Film d’Art in 1917. Because of the war, it was only released in November 1918.

Moonlight Sonata

Het leven & de muziek van Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) op Compact Discs, DVD's en Boeken

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