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The Magic Flute (The Criterion Collection) (Full Screen)

Ulrik Cold , Josef Köstlinger , Ingmar Bergman    G (General Audience)   DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Ingmar Bergman's vision of The Magic Flute (sung here in Swedish) remains one of the indisputable classics in the opera-as-film catalog, its charm and enchantment undiminished since the film's initial release in the 1970s. This is a case not of competition between two geniuses (and two media) but of affirmative, graceful, and enlightening synergy. Instead of simply filming a staged run-through of the opera, Bergman chooses to play with the framework around such a performance (given in Stockholm's elegant Drottningholm Theatre)--and he moreover rearranges the order of the scenes in the final act. Intermittent shots of audience reactions--including those of a young girl infectiously involved in the story--and sudden, psychologically probing close-up angles result in a richly textured, multilayered effect.

Certainly Bergman renders the fairy-tale aspects of Mozart's mise-en-scène with such buoyant detail that the film makes an excellent entrée both for youngsters and for anyone who is uneasy about how to approach an opera. Yet there is much food for thought to be savored by the already initiated as well. One of Bergman's more brilliant interventions is to depict Sarastro and the Queen of the Night as a divorced couple engaged in a bitter battle over daughter Pamina. The director supplies plenty of energetic wit and arabesques of allusion (in addition to his Prospero-like demeanor, the high priest Sarastro is shown at one point during the intermission perusing the score of Parsifal), and--as might be expected of one of film's greatest symbolists--teases out the opera's weightier allegorical levels with hauntingly beautiful effect. Brilliant chiaroscuro and contrasted lighting patterns, for example, offer ongoing visual commentary on the contest between darkness and light. The cast is exceptionally photogenic, their abundant youth and obvious chemistry more than compensating for the often no-more-than-mediocre vocal performances (with the exception of Håkan Hagegård's utterly disarming, still-fresh portrayal of Papageno). For a desert-island audio recording, try Thomas Beecham. --Thomas May

Product Description

Ingmar Bergman puts his indelible stamp on Mozart's exquisite opera in this sublime rendering of one of the composer's best-loved works: a celebration of love, forgiveness, and the brotherhood of man. The Magic Flute (Trollflöjten) stars Josef Köstlinger as Tamino, the young man determined to rescue a beautiful princess from the clutches of parental evil. Criterion's edition features the film's glorious soundtrack in the original stereo format.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars soloists not up to snuff Feb. 17 2009
Format:DVD
I can't fathom all of the positive reviews. The singers who perform Tamino and the Queen of the Night are very weak - I can't tolerate singers who can't sing in tune.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Opera or Movie? Feb. 12 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
No, I didn't like it. Bergman totally ignores the Masonic background of the opera; the sets are unimaginative, sometimes seem more intended for a film; the continuous shots of his daughter in the audience are tiresome and ruin the continuity.
The cast was adequate, but in my opinion Sarastro did not have the gravitas required for such a dominant character.
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By Nana67
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
It arrived on time and in good condition. A truly good buy. I enjoyed it very much. I have used it as an introduction to the opera for my grand children.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another side to Bergman. Imperfect but fun. May 9 2012
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:DVD
I found Bergman's film of Mozart's opera neither the unalloyed masterpiece of some critics,
nor the failure of others. To me it represented a perfectly enjoyable attempt to bring opera
to the masses (remember this was made for TV), while not quite being a masterwork.

There are a lot of moments of just plain fun; in the story, the singing, the costumes, the images.
But there are failed ideas as well.

Operating on a small budget, Bergman tries to walk a fine line of keeping the opera set in a theater,
while 'opening it up' with camera angles, and sets that would never work in a real theater. Not
a bad concept, but the constant cuts to audience reactions (especially those of his own daughter)
becomes increasingly distracting, and there are times where some of the theatrical artifice, seen
up close, just seems clunky, not magical.

As a result, you never can 'believe in' the story, but you also don't get the grandeur and magic of
a great stage production. You DO get an intimacy with the characters and their feelings, which is great
where those are interesting, not so good in those moments where the story itself (as opposed to
Mozart's sublime music) is a bit silly, contradictory and shallow.

NB: The film has a big note that it is "full screen' on the listing, but that doesn't
mean it was ever meant to be seen widescreen. Bergman made it for TV, long before
today's wide screen televisions. So "full screen" was how it was meant to be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Drama Of Mozart's Magic Flute Jan. 20 2003
Format:VHS Tape
The Magic Flute, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's last opera, is a multi-layered Singspiel opera that is accessible to children as well as adults. It is an allegory of good versus evil, layed with Freemason ideals, and scored by Mozart's most sublime music. Ingmar Bergman filmed a live performance in a Stockholm theater in Sweden. The singers are singing in Swedish, not its original German, and the camera provides glimpses of going ons backstage and shots of the audience, focusing especially on a red-haired girl who is deeply engaged in the opera. This way, Bergman makes opera a dramatic experience. At times, it feels as if we are not watching an opera at all, but a play. The Swedish cast is fresh, energetic and engages the audience in the fabulous story. The story should be familiar to opera buffs. Tamino, a lost prince, finds he has been commissioned to save a beautiful princess, Pamina, from the clutches of a supposed evil wizard, Sarastro, and return her to her mother the Queen of the Night. As the opera progresses, we discover that Tamino has been deceived and he is, in essence, "shown the light" of truth through the aid of the enlightened religious order of Sarastro's men. The Queen, Pamina's mother, is the villain, bent on dominating the earth, and Sarastro, Pamina's father, is a benevolent holy man who intendes to foil the dark queen's plans. The custody battle over Pamina is true to the Mozart allegory. He had Pamina represent Austria, Sarastro, the "father", was the wise ideals of Freemasonry, while the "mother" Queen of the Night is the suppression and censorship of Freemasonry by imperialist autocrats like the Empress Teresa, whom the Queen is modeled after.
Superb singing. The arias "Dies Bildnis", in which Tamino looks at a portrait of Pamina and falls in love, is well made.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful memories March 4 2010
Format:DVD
this is a wonderful production that is very difficult to fine elsewhere. For the Mozart amateurs this is a trip back in time with a different view of the Magic Flute.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Magic of Bergman's Magic Flute Nov. 9 2006
Format:VHS Tape
I try to attend a production of this opera as many times as I am able and since I first saw this film in the 1970's, I have considered it to be the most enlightened and entertaining production. The viewer is not only enthralled by the "on-stage" brilliance of the singing and acting but we are also made privy to the mechanics and technical details of the theatre and the production as well as the involvement of the audience. Totally magical!
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5.0 out of 5 stars a magnificent adaptation June 6 2004
Format:VHS Tape
As the film opens with the overture, it focuses on the face of a beautiful child in the audience, and it is as if we see this fantastic production through her innocent eyes; it's an adaptation that captures all the playfulness and enchantment of Mozart's glorious last opera, and brings it to life with renewed vigor.
The attractive cast, though occasionally vocally uneven, is a total delight; Josef Kostlinger is superb as Tamino, Hakan Hagegard shines as Papageno, Ulrik Cold impressive as Sarastro, and Elisabeth Erikson is adorable as Papagena.
The sets, which sometimes seem to shift like smoke, as well as the costumes, are masterful, and include everything from lovable fuzzy creatures, to a brilliant vision of the "dark regions", with dancers writhing and wrestling as its tortured inhabitants.
I also enjoyed the backstage views during intermission; Tamino and Pamina playing chess, Sarastro looking over a score of Parsifal while a chorus member reads Kalle Ankas (a Donald Duck comic book), and especially the formerly fire-spewing dragon trudging past a doorway.
I never fully appreciated "The Magic Flute" until I watched this film; it's strange that Ingmar Bergman, more known for his somber films, should bring out so much light and joy from this magnificent opera.
It would make a perfect introduction for young people to opera, and the singing in Swedish seems quite natural and enjoyable (especially for us older folks who have listened to the great Jussi Bjorling for decades), and the subtitles are excellent and easily to read.
Those who like filmed opera, will surely find this to be an imaginative, wonderful production. Total running time is 135 minutes.
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