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Old 17th December 2007, 03:31 PM   #7
Rolfe
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Well, Scotland got it for one week in Glasgow followed by one week in Edinburgh, one cinema each, end of run. And the showing I went to wasn't exactly packed to the doors (though I have to say that almost everyone sat through the end credits to hear the overture again).

Now I remember when the Bergman version (Trollflojten) came out, and that was actually sung in Swedish with subtitles, but it had more than one decent run in a few arts cinemas (the old Cosmo in Glasgow was where I saw it), and quite good audiences. This version was sung in English, with a good and clear translation, and I think it sort of bombed.

Why?

No doubt Trollflojten was magical, life-enhancing and all the rest. But it was also quite stagey, and the singing was so-so. Also, it encouraged no deeper insight into the text at all, substituting the rather difficult plot (seven-fold circle of the sun and so on) with a pasted-on tug-of-love story in which Pamina somehow became Sarastro's daughter. Insight was there none.

But the Bergman version was lauded by the critics, lovely family film and all that, the superficial prettiness seemed to count for everything. While the Branagh version, as I said, was slated on Newsnight Review (though I heard a more sympathetic interview with Branagh on Radio Scotland). Don't upset the critics if you know what's good for you.

The Branagh version was excellently sung, and I don't think the acting was as bad as some critics reported. I didn't see much of the original plot detail there either, but what was there made me think more than most productions I've seen (and I've seen a lot, I almost collect productions, looking for different insights into the text). The WW1 setting was off-the-wall, no doubt, but it allowed Branagh to make the point that Tamino and Pamina's choices and actions mattered - to everyone, not just to themselves, because they carried within them to possibility of ending a universal and terrible conflict. And I think that idea is in there from the start, although hard to uncover, especially (as in most productions) when the dialogue is cut right back.

It's just a pity that some of the scenes were frankly ludicrous (The Queen flying around the night sky in her first aria, stars making a heart with "T&P" in it during Bei Mannern, and Papageno bouncing into huge pneumatic lips at the end of Ein Madchen oder Weibchen, for example). And Ach, ich fuhls was simply thrown away, mediocre performance, played as an internal monologue. Half the point of that aria is that Tamino has to stand there and listen to it, dammit! (think about the Bergman version, where she practically had her chin on his shoulder, and even the tentative Kostlinger managed to look pretty upset about it).

And when I saw a huge sun-shaped rose window (though not seven-fold) in Sarastro's temple, I thought, yes! here's the defeat of the Queen, when the rising sun comes in through that window. No, that trick was unfortunately totally missed. Well, at least it was better than Bergman, whom I thought totally lost it when he showed a quick scene of Sarastro and his priests coming at the Queen with drawn swords. The trial-of-fire depicting an army following Tamino and Pamina laying down their weapons but still obviously prevailing against the Queen's forces did seem to me to work.

Hey, anybody actually seen this film at all?

I understand the DVD comes out in March, and I do intend to buy it.

Rolfe.
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Last edited by Rolfe; 17th December 2007 at 03:33 PM.
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