3.1.3 The filming of Amadeus
Amadeus was filmed on locations in Prague and in Vienna; the castle scenes were shot in Kromeriz (Czechoslovakia) ("Amadeus (1984)", icon "Locations"). Since reconstructing "the Habsburg [sic] Rococo decor within which Mozart spent his life" (Kamm, 1) in a studio would have been far too expensive, Milos Forman decided that the film could only be made in Budapest, Prague or Vienna, as those were the only cities that provided the required exteriors and interiors. He discarded Vienna because it was too expensive and its historical exteriors too distorted by modernity. Budapest was cheaper, but still the historical buildings were poorly maintained. Prague remained the only possible choice, as it was both cheap and beautifully preserved. It offered "churches, palaces, streets and squares, cobblestones included, such as they were in the days of the Empress Maria Theresa, and the cost of labour and other services [was] much lower in a Communist country" (Kamm, 1).
A further advantage of Prague was that it offered Forman the possibility of shooting in the Tyl Theatre, the very theatre in which Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni 200 years earlier. It provided the filmmakers with unlimited freedom to stage and shoot scenes based on Mozart's operas, and it gave them "the miraculous feeling of time being reclaimed from oblivion" (Shaffer 1993, 111). Peter Shaffer also admires the ease and natural poise that the Czech extras showed in wearing the Rococo costumes. On the whole, Prague turned out to be a very good place for filming Amadeus, as it provided not only the settings, but also the right atmosphere that helped the crew to "get the feel" of the eighteenth century. The historical setting proved inspiring. For example, a "beautiful series of receding rooms and doorways in the 16th century Gryspek Palace inspired them [Forman and Shaffer] to rewrite a scene involving Mozart and the Emperor -- in order to take advantage of the setting." (Kakutani, 20)
On the other hand, there were also some difficulties connected with "making a two-and-a-half-hour costume picture entirely behind the Iron curtain" (Shaffer 1993, 111). For the largely American film crew, the enterprise involved a long stay in a highly restrictive country, and the producer Saul Zaentz had to go through endless fights with Czech bureaucracy. Luckily, the resulting film shows no traces of these impediments, as the merits of Prague outweighed the negative aspects by far.