Louis Van Beethoven Review – Brilliant, Absorbing, Captivating

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Louis Van Beethoven, the closing film selection at the AFI European Film Festival, brings to the screen the humble beginnings of Ludwig van Beethoven, from commoner child prodigy impressing the aristocrats to celebrated, albeit arrogant, composer.

The film begins as adult Beethoven, played by Tobias Moretti, is reading a letter from the love of his life, aristocrat Eleonore von Breunig, played by Caroline Hellwig. In the carriage are two well born ladies who remark on the loss of his hearing, and the opportunity to hear him at the premiere of his ninth symphony in Vienna. His companion, his nephew, Karl, played by Peter Lewys Preston, reassures the ladies he can hear nothing.

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In flashbacks the movie returns to his humble beginnings, when once the name of Beethoven carried clout in the small city of Bonn, Germany. It is 1778, and Louis is driven to excellence by his hard-drinking father Johann, played by Cornelius Obonya, we see him demonstrate an innate ability to play by sight any piece without hesitation.

By eight he is a master, by his teen years, when he is played by Anselm Bresgott, he is compared to his hero Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and is the assistant to the Court's Music director, played by Ulrich Noethen. His skill as a local wunderkind, allows him access into society.

Throughout the film we see his family is challenged by hardship, after his mother's death, his father deteriorates into the town drunk. Two siblings die from lack of medicine and proper healthcare. The rent is continually overdue, and never deterred from his artistic craft he becomes the breadwinner.

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As a young man, he meets Eleonore, the daughter of an aristocrat, highborn, beautiful, and well bred, groomed essentially to marry well. His genius talent becomes his entry pass. Soon he is well known in all circles, providing private lessons to the wealthy, and enjoying the posh lifestyle of nobility.

Class division, in Beethoven's mind, was non-existent as he viewed the frequent invitations as acceptance. It wasn't until what he himself identifies as a garish misstep that he is informed that even as Eleonore sees him as an equal, it is the imaginations of infatuated youth.

He is sponsored by the wealthy and sent to study as a pupil of Joseph Haydn in Vienna, where he finally meets Mozart, played by Manuel Rubey, and as hero's seldom live up to the image, he finds his genius magnetic and his life frustrating filled with episodes of depression. As exposure to the arts often opens the eye to other forms of artistic expression, Beethoven becomes inspired by romantic poetry and the revolutionary thinking of the American and French revolutions.

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The films crosscuts between these times in Beethoven life. As an older man, comfortable as a celebrated composer, the loss of his hearing which is never explained in the film and may just be attributed to age, gives way to tolerated bad behavior. He is eccentric, rude, conceited, egotistical and worse stubborn even to the point of putting himself and his companions in danger.

Louis Van Beethoven is magnificent. With captivating performances, the period piece, which coincides with the worldwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of the great composer's birth, is enthralling.

Without question the music of the master's, Beethoven, Mozart, Joseph Haydn are equally lead characters of the film as are the literary works of Joseph Goethe.

Mesmerizing and hypnotic, filled with classical accompaniment, Louis Van Beethoven reveals the back story that is usually untold for those who are enamored with his work. The adversity coupled with his own arrogance makes this a riveting masterpiece.

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The closing film of the AFI European Union Film Festival Louis Van Beethoven is available to viewers located in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC., via this link. https://afieu.eventive.org/welcome


Year – 2020.

Runtime - 120 minutes.

Language – German.

Country - Germany, Czech Republic with English subtitles.

Director - Niki Stein.

Screenwriter - Niki Stein.

Producer - Ernst Ludwig Ganzert.

Cast - Anselm Bresgott, Colin Pütz, Caroline Hellwig, Tobias Moretti, Ulrich Noethen, Cornelius Obonya, Manuel Rubey, Peter Lewys Preston.

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