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

4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Ulrik Cold, Josef Köstlinger, Irma Urrila, Håkan Hagegård, Elisabeth Erikson
  • Directors: Ingmar Bergman
  • Writers: Ingmar Bergman, Alf Henrikson, Emanuel Schikaneder
  • Producers: Måns Reuterswärd
  • Format: Color, DVD-Video, Special Edition, NTSC
  • Language: Swedish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: May 16 2000
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews
  • ASIN: 0780023080
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,457 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

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.


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.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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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Format: DVD
In 1975, director Ingmar Bergman produced this version of Mozart's "The Magic Flute", Mozart's final and greatest opera. It is in my personal opinion, the greatest interpretation of the Magic Flute ever made on film. It is more than anything a film, made in the style of the foreign film or art-house genre. Shot on location in a Stockholm theatre and sung in Swedish, this version provides the audience with a truly theatrical experience. We are viewing not only the lavish spectacle, but the spectators of the show in their seats, in much the same way Edgar Degas painted his theatrical paintings of stage ballets. Of course even better would have been a film shot inside the Theatre An Der Wien in Vienna, the very same community theatre where Mozart premiered his opera in 1791 and sung in its original German. But nobody's perfect. This film however, is as close to perfect as possible. By 1975, the famous German singers whose recordings have now been remastered and lauded as the finest singers of the 20th century- baritone Kurt Moll, soprano Elizabeth Schwartzkopff, baritone Walter Berry, tenor Fritz Wunderlich, soprano Anneliese Rothenberger and soprano Lucia Popp and Rita Streich all who have performed in The Magic Flute with enormous success, had long retired. This film instead casts obscure Swedish singers. But that's really of very little importance in the light of its excellent production. When I think of The Magic Flute, this Bergman version automatically comes to mind. It has the definitive "Magic Flute" look, as far as costumes, personality in charactes and scenery.
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.
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