The Magic Flute
THE MAGIC FLUTE
(TROLLFLOJTEN) 1975

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



To me only Ulrik Cold as the sun-god figure Sarastro looks his part & the rest of the cast is peculiarly flat, unappealing, & unconvincing. Even Bergman was so bored he kept showing a little girl in the audience as though she were more magical than dragons & spirits, when in fact she was even more dull, except to Igmar, whose daughter she is.

The Magic FluteNone of the cast is actually credited anywhere on the film because they really don't matter. They are lip-syncing Mozart's Die Zauberflote & absolutely never look like they're actually singing, despite that they are lip-syncing their own pre-recorded voices.

The effect ruins it as a record of a live opera performance, & yet very little has been done to transform it into cinema.

Bergman had no respect for the actual libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder, & changed it so that Sarastro is the "kidnapped" maiden's father & so she is not kidnapped at all.

He also weakens the original's Egyptian death-myth, so that it comes off much more literal than Mozart & Schikaneder intended. The result is a banal story about a child custody battle between estranged husband & wife.

A few other changes favor the male characters more dramatically than did the original author & composer. Although it's crammed with fantasy it manages to make every wild idea leaden, a monotone performance to match the scarcely varied operatic diddies. Toward the end it gets much prettier & preserves more of the mythic elements, but it's far too late to evoke interest in the characters themselves.

As a made-for-TV production there are many facial close-ups so that an essential theater piece becomes talking heads (or singing heads) like it's the eleven o'clock news, & makes the lip-syncing all the more evident.

Yes, yes, surely I'm a Phillistine to not see the greatness of Bergman's minimalist lip-sync show, but fact is you don't get great opera performances from American Bandstand style of faked singing. I'll persist in my own sense of the wretched article.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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