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The Magic Flute Academy Award Nomination! 

By Thomas May

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 Super70s. 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.

Academy Awards

The Magic Flute received an Academy Awards nomination for Costume Design (Henny Noremark, Karin Erskine).

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated GNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Stars: Josef Köstlinger, Ulrik Cold

Released: November 11, 1975

Availability: DVD VHS


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