The Magic Flute (The Criterion Collection) (Full Screen)
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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.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Superb singing. The arias "Dies Bildnis", in which Tamino looks at a portrait of Pamina and falls in love, is well made.Read more ›
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.
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.
Fortunately, it's not one of those abstract productions, many times limited in imagination by budget cuts. It's got the very essence of The Magic Flute and it's visually presented as I'm sure Mozart himself would have approved.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 12 2013 by Mark A Badior
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.Published on Jan. 29 2013 by Nana67
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.Published on March 4 2010 by A. Lamoureux
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.Published on Feb. 17 2009 by True North
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... Read morePublished on Nov. 9 2006 by Jeanette Ireland
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film which can best described as an operetta, is based on the opera of the same name by Mozart. Read more
No other director is the history of the medium had the balls to something like that.And no other director in the history of medium broke all the rules,so often,like Ingmar... Read morePublished on May 15 2004
I have watched several live Magic Flute productions and a few other video productions. And this is THE WORST EVER. Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2004
I was inspired to return to this version of Mozart's joyous singspiel by a recent televised version from a major opera house(whose name I shall not state in the possibly forlorn... Read morePublished on Jan. 9 2004 by L. E. Cantrell
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