Is Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham, in a virtuoso performance he has yet to match) insane? Amadeus opens with an old, bitter Salieri living out his last days in an asylum, where he’s been relegated following a suicide attempt. The film’s story, and the story of his life, unfolds as he confesses to a priest how, and why, he killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
It’s ironic that the image of Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — R.P. ‘Mac’ McMurphy, in that black watch cap and grinning his devilish grin — has become a kind of visual shorthand for insanity. McMurphy isn’t insane. I’m not sure if very many of the characters surrounding him in this quietly shocking movie are, either.