Phil Grabsky's exhaustive documentary doesn't exactly dispel any stereotypes about Beethoven's being a shaggy genius prone to rages. (Choice Ludwig quote: "My servant has been quite different since I threw those books at her head.") But the many excerpts from the enigmatic composer's letters offer an intriguing portrait of the man as a hopeless romantic, a smack-talking punk, a sickly individual tormented by his deafness and thoughts of suicide, and an "eternal optimist."
The beating heart of the film is Beethoven's music, and Grabsky brings on a dizzying parade of performers (among them pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, violinist Janine Jansen, and conductor Fabio Luisi) to rhapsodize about their hero and offer lovely live renditions. The reviewer for the British tabloid Mail on Sunday proclaimed this movie "so terrific I wept."
Your mileage may vary with the weeping, but I did get one hell of a laugh out of German bass-baritone Albert Dohmen and his insane rant about how YouTube is full of trash. Guess there's just no talking about Beethoven without the sturm und drang.