It is set in 1824 as Beethoven (Ed Harris) is finishing his Ninth Symphony. He is plagued by deafness, loneliness and personal trauma. A fictional character, a new copyist, Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger) is engaged to help the composer finish preparing the score for the first performance. Anna is a young conservatory student and aspiring composer. Her understanding of his work is such that she corrects mistakes he has made, while her personality opens a door into his private world. Beethoven is initially skeptical, but he slowly comes to trust Anna's assistance and eventually grows to view her with respect, and even with admiration.
Anna Holtz (as Beethoven refers to her) is sent to be his copyist, but due to her gender, is constantly thought less of, and is mistaken for a serving girl, maid, and even prostitute. Pushing past, though quite unhappily, from these assumptions, Anna proves herself to Beethoven, not only as a copyist, but also as his friend, and something of his protégé and heir as far as he is concerned. He gains much admiration of her, after she assists him by directing him, hidden among his musicians, as he simultaneously copies her movements to direct the orchestra during what would turn out to be, one of his final performances. Though Anna agreed to her romantic interest, Martin Bauer, that she would help him complete his symphony, and then immediately leave after showing him her work, she instead continues to assist him as his copyist. After seeing the admiration she has gained from Beethoven, Anna proceeds to show him a piece of music that she composed. Beethoven tactlessly and unknowingly insults her. Anna, more than ready not to return, continues to stay with her great aunt and the nuns at the convent. Anna is surprised when Beethoven, desperate to keep Anna in his employment and under his tutelage, bursts into the convent and begs Anna, on his knees, to come back and work as his equal on both of their music. He begins to teach her about Romanticism, music, and mostly, how to allow her artistic side freedom. Continuing his infuriating behavior, Beethoven smashes Martin's bridge he built for an engineer's competition, thereby ruining Martin as well. Anna, angry, confronts Beethoven, asking him if he had ever considered that she loved Martin. Beethoven replies, "You don't love him." Upon hearing this, Anna angrily asks if she is supposed to love Beethoven instead. Beethoven again replies, "No. You want to be me." From here, Anna agrees that Beethoven did the right thing, and continues to work with him, pushing him past his hardships and failures, and then staying by his bedside until he died. The movie ends though, with Anna finally embracing herself as an artist, unique from all other composers, including Beethoven, and readying herself for a promising future.
Though the film is directed very abstractly, leaving room for the audience to view Anna and Beethoven's relationship as that of a chaste romance, the characters remain very platonic, and could much more easily be viewed as a strong and close friendship, bordering on Beethoven even being viewed as a father figure of Anna's.Ed Harris as Ludwig van Beethoven
Diane Kruger as Anna Holtz
Matthew Goode as Martin Bauer
Phyllida Law as Mother Canisius
Joe Anderson as Karl van Beethoven
Ralph Riach as Wenzel Schlemmer
Bill Stewart as Rudy
The working manuscript of the score is attributed to two copyists, both of whom were male, not a single female as depicted in the film.
The film received a score of 59 and negative reviews of 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 80 reviews.