The father of a family living in Vienna in the 1820s dies, leaving a young son, an infant daughter and a widow. To make ends meet, the family must rent out the father’s former study. The first tenant is Ludwig van Beethoven: famous, eccentric, and one of the greatest of classical composers. Beethoven has become deaf, and he is angry about his disability. Christoph, ten years-of-age, initially resents the newcomer but then becomes his friend, sharing Beethoven’s triumph in the composition of his Ninth Symphony.
Selected Awards: 1993 EMMY Award Winner for Outstanding Children’s Program; 1993 Parent’s Choice Award – Best Video; Monitor Award for Best Director of a Children’s Program (David Devine); Monitor Award Nominations for Best Children’s Program, Best Editing, and Best Sound; Winner, New England Children’s Film Festival, Boston; Award of Excellence from the U.S. National Board of Film Review; The American Film & Video Association’s BLUE RIBBON Winner for Best Original Children’s Program; The U.S. International Film and Video Festival GOLD CAMERA Award – Best Children’s Program and Best Director (David Devine); Worldfest Houston, Bronze Award for Best Children’s Program; DOVE Foundation Award – Best Children’s Video; American Library Association Honor – Best Children’s Program; Four 1993 Gemini Nominations: Best Writing, Best Actor, Best Editing & Best Sound; Official Selection for the Banff Television Festival; Finalist in the New York International Film Festival; Selected for Permanent Collection of the Museum of Radio & Television Arts, New York; 1993/94 CableACE Award Nomination – Best International Children’s Program.
Featured Actors: Sheila McCarthy, Neil Munro, Fione Reid, Albert Schultz, Illya Woloshyn.
Director: David Devine.
This movie introduces Beethoven and his struggle with deafness. It shows that a young boy can survive the grief he feels over his father’s death and move on with his life.
Around the time that your child watches this movie, play some of Beethoven’s music and tell your child what it is. Ask and answer the Quick Discussion Question. If your child is very interested in the film, go through some of the other Discussion Questions.
Ludwig van Beethoven is perhaps the most popular and influential composer of classical music. His works form the core of most repertoires of modern symphony orchestras. As a young man Beethoven was recognized as having great talent, and there were plans to send him to Vienna to study with Mozart. However, Mozart’s untimely death in 1791 prevented this, and Beethoven studied with the great Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn.
Beethoven’s compositions are beautiful, forceful, and inspiring with waves of music sweeping the listener into new revelations about the human spirit. Beethoven lived during the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the conservative backlash that followed the defeat of Napoleon. His music was often concerned with political and personal freedom. This interest is explicit in the Ninth Symphony and in the opera Fidelio. It can also be heard in more abstract works such as the Fifth Symphony.
One of the great ironies of history is that Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) became deaf at the height of his popularity and while his musical genius was still intact. Despite his deafness he wrote great works of music, including the Ninth Symphony. He also created new styles of music after he became deaf.
Beethoven was quite eccentric. Toward the end of his life, Beethoven moved from rented room to rented room, abused even his best friends, and acted erratically.
1. See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
2. Explain Beethoven’s attitude toward his deafness and why he felt that way.
3. Explain how the concept of irony applies to the fact that Beethoven became deaf at a relatively young age.
4. Who are your favorite composers of classical music? Why?
5. Commentators say that only the best of classical music (the popular music of its day) has lasted to be heard in modern times. The mediocre compositions that might have enjoyed short-lived popularity have now been forgotten. What popular music from our time do you think will still be played and enjoyed two centuries from now?
DISABILITIES – TALENT
1. Did Beethoven’s great talent or his anger at the loss of his hearing justify his disrespectful actions toward others?
2. Why was Christoph resentful of Beethoven’s presence in the household at the beginning of the film? How did this change?
3. How did Christoph deal with his grief over his father’s death?
4. Can young people have good friendships with adults? Do you have any such friendships?
5. Are friendships necessarily exclusive? In other words, does being friends with one person mean that you cannot be friends with others?
(Additional questions are set out in the “Caring” section below.)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
1. Evaluate Beethoven’s conduct in relation to the concept of responsibility.
2. Did Beethoven’s great talent impose any special responsibilities upon him? Did he fulfill those responsibilities?
(Additional questions are set out in the “Disabilities and Talent” section above.)
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
3. Did Christoph betray his father’s memory by becoming friends with Beethoven? What does this tell us about the nature of caring for others?
4. Evaluate Beethoven’s conduct in relation to the concept of caring.
(Additional questions are set out in the “Friendship” section above.)
Books recommended for middle school and junior high readers include: Lives of Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times & What the Neighbors Thought by Kathleen Krull, Harcourt Brass Jovanocich, 1993.
Play the Ninth Symphony for your child so that he or she can hear what Beethoven did after he had become deaf. Try to discover what Beethoven is trying to tell us about personal and political freedom. You can also do this with the Fifth Symphony. There is an audio tape of Beethoven Lives Upstairs which is excellent for playing in the car on long trips. There is also a CD Rom called Beethoven Lives Upstairs which teaches children about classical music. It has been generally well received but we have not tried it.
There are many websites lovingly maintained by people devoted to Beethoven’s music or recording companies.
Last updated December 9, 2009.