Review of 'The Magic Flute'

REVA1047_MagicFlute_US_DVD_Inlay_1.indd This is an adaptation of the Mozart opera of the same name for the screen. It is not a straightforward filming of an opera production but rather a “re-imagining” of the opera with flights of fancy galore.

The action takes place in a World War 1 setting as a soldier, Tamino (Joseph Kaiser) is called upon by the Queen of the Night (Lyubov Petrova) to rescue Pamina (Amy Carson) from the “evil” Sarastro (René Pape). Taking one look at the picture of Pamina Tamino falls immediately in love and vows to make her his wife (as you do). Finding Sarastro is not as evil as he was made out to be by the Queen of the Night, Tamino is called upon to prove his love for Pamina by undergoing several trials (as you do). Beyond this, much of the rest of plot makes little sense (not the fault of Branagh but rather the fault of the source material).

The young (largely unknown) cast are brilliant in their roles with the veteran René Pape (a famous opera singer, particularly known for his performances on the stage in the role of Sarastro) the icing on the cake. The music is performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with a great deal of emotion that comes through quite clearly.

I found the often heavy-handed use of CGI quite intrusive at times though the cinematography was quite imaginative – The aria performed by the Queen of the Night where she flies through the sky with the camera seeming to be unable to follow her was quite effective. Likely the CGI was to help make up for the fact that the film was largely filmed in a studio (Shepperton Studios in England). Having said this, the movie is quite watchable and enjoyable. Hard to get bored as the visuals continuously change even if the music tends towards repetition. Quite appropriate for these days of short attention spans but I am not convinced how well it works for opera…

This English language version of the Opera was sponsored by the Peter Moores Foundation which seeks to make opera accessible to a modern English audience which I think this does. As to how successful this will be in terms of the box office remains to be seen. Myself as an opera fan I found this a very enjoyable if somewhat unusual adaptation of the source material. I will be seeing it again. However, for the majority of people this may be a bit too odd for their liking.

This is the first outing by Branagh in the area of opera. He says that he will consider other operas depending on how well this one does in the box office. I am intrigued to see what he might come up with next…

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2007-11-27

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Studio: Idéale Audience

Year: 2007

Length: 135 minutes

Genre: Musical

Other reviewed films by Kenneth Branagh: