Immortal Beloved Response
Immortal Beloved is a 1994 film about the life of composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
The story follows Beethoven’s secretary and first biographer Anton Schindler as he attempts to
ascertain the true identity of the Unsterbliche Geliebte addressed in three letters found in the
late composer’s private papers. Schindler journeys throughout the Austrian Empire interviewing
women who might be potential candidates as well as through Beethoven’s own tumultuous life.
When Ludwig van Beethoven dies, his assistant and close friend Schindler deals with
his last will and testament. There remains a question as to who Beethoven’s “immortal beloved”,
an unnamed woman mentioned in one of his letters, may be. Schindler embarks on a quest to
find out who this woman is. Retrospective footage of Beethoven from his younger years until
his death is featured as the film progresses. The conclusion ultimately is that the individual is
Johanna Reiss, the daughter of Anton Van Reiss, a prosperous Viennese upholsterer. In the film,
she becomes pregnant by Beethoven; when by an accidental turn of events he does not marry her
in time, she marries his brother, Kaspar. Their son, Karl van Beethoven, is raised by Ludwig in
the vain hope of making him an important musician in his own right.
Beethoven had a personality that resonated with his music. He is portrayed in Immortal
Beloved as a brooding artist who bordered on insane. He played his piano like a madman until
he went deaf and then he played it like an outright lunatic, if the stories are to be believed. Of
course, he did so in order to feel his music because he could no longer hear it. Nonetheless, his
character stuck. He was unmarried, grumpy and extremely talented. However, upon his death,
another side of Beethoven was revealed — one that remains steeped in mystery.
Beethoven died in 1827. He was in his 50s when he passed away. After his death, a
single letter written in three parts was discovered. The letter was written to a woman he referred
to only as his “Immortal Beloved.” The letter seems to have never been sent. Therefore, there is
no date or addressee on the letter, which consists of 10 pages. However, the papers have been
dated to 1812.
It is made abundantly clear in Beethoven’s letters to his Immortal Beloved that he is
either very in love with her or a very smooth talker. He opens the letter with, “My angel, my
everything, my very self.” He goes on to say, “We will probably see each other soon . . . ” and
then leaves off the first part with “Your faithful Ludwig.” The first part does give the impression
that the two lovers have a past together and that their feelings are mutual. It also gives the
impression that there is some difficulty to their relationship.
The second part of the Immortal Beloved letters opens with, “You are suffering, you my
dearest creature . . . ” Why is she suffering? He goes on to lament their lack of contact, giving
the impression that her suffering is caused by their being apart or not getting letters from each
other soon enough. He mentions he is upset that she will not get news from him until a later date.
In this part of the missive, Ludwig van Beethoven writes, “. . . as much as you love me — I love
you even more deeply . . . ” By now, the reader knows there is a past there, but who could the
recipient be? It seems the letter was never sent. Did something prevent it? Did he simply see her
before he could send the letters? Was this the last of their relationship? Why are there no more
letters if this one was important enough to keep?
Beethoven’s amorous exchanges with Julie came roughly a decade before the Immortal
Beloved letters were written, but she is still considered a potential recipient. Josephine was the
recipient of a number of love letters from Ludwig, but they ceased two years before the Immortal
Beloved letters, as far as we know. Despite his deranged appearance in later years, he was quite
dashing in his early portraits. He had no trouble getting these women to love him back. The
problem was getting society to accept his taste in women
The candidates for Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved are his two known lovers listed above,
Josephine being the favorite choice, Antonie Brentano (a married woman whose husband was
a friend to Beethoven) and Countess Terez Brunswick (Josephine’s sister). The likely reason
Beethoven never married is that all of these women were out of the reach of his social class.
Perhaps the reason that he never married after the Immortal Beloved letters is that his Immortal
Beloved was unattainable. Whatever the case may be, Beethoven never did settle down. He spent
much of his later life engaged in a fierce custody battle over his nephew against a sister-in-law
who was decidedly unfit and a known thief. He also dealt with much depression over his hearing
loss. He died as he lived — a bachelor with a string of love letters in his wake.