1.2 Milos Forman
Milos Forman's career started in Czechoslovakia, where he had already achieved critical success and local popularity in the 1960s. Despite this, commercial success and international fame came only after his emigration to the USA in January of 1969 with such films as Taking Off (1971), One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Hair (1979), Ragtime (1981), and finally, Amadeus (1984).
In contrast to Shaffer's plays, his films do not usually show a clash between two opposed personalities, but "a clash between a solitary person and a restrictive society" (Slater, 1). His protagonists "fight a social system more concerned with maintaining order than providing personal freedom" (Slater, 2). Although less metaphysical, his themes are no less profound than those of Peter Shaffer, but they are always presented as a mixture of comedy and tragedy. This device makes his films deeply moving and, at the same time, easily accessible to a wide audience, which accounts for their great commercial success.
Like Shaffer, Milos Forman is an artist with an extraordinary empathy for music. In his films, it serves not only as an illustration of mood, atmosphere, and emotion, but is a means of communicating information about a particular society and specific period in time. In Taking Off and in the musical Hair, music expresses the feelings, ideas, and lifestyle of a whole generation. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, it underlines the numbing atmosphere of the mental hospital. In Ragtime, Forman shows a musician who can only find freedom in his music and has to fight against a hostile society, not unlike Mozart in Amadeus. In Amadeus, though, music becomes the very substance of the film and the driving force behind the actions of the characters.
Milos Forman "[is] like Shaffer successful, energetic and absolute in his tastes." (Gianakaris 1985, 88) Although the two authors pursue quite different themes in their work, they have found enough common matter in Amadeus to turn it into a film. Forman has described his method of adaptation as "tearing the play apart and putting it together in a new form" (Forman, quoted from Kamm, 15). Shaffer, on the other hand, used the occasion to "seek out new means to fulfill previous objectives" (Gianakaris 1985, 88). Naturally, the combined efforts of two such personalities produced a somewhat different work than its stage original.