The Queen of the Night (Birgit Nordin) offers his daughter Pamina (Irma Urrila) to Tamino (Josef Köstlinger), but he has to bring her back from her father and priest Sarastro (Ulrik Cold). She gives a magic flute to Tamino and magic bells to the bird hunter Papageno (Håkan Hagegård), who follows Tamino and wants to find a wife. The duo travels in a journey of love and knowledge.
Josef Köstlinger ... Tamino
Irma Urrila ... Pamina
Håkan Hagegård ... Papageno
Elisabeth Erikson ... Papagena
Britt-Marie Aruhn ... Första damen - First lady
Kirsten Vaupel ... Andra damen
Birgitta Smiding ... Tredje damen
Ulrik Cold ... Sarastro
Birgit Nordin ... Nattens Drottning
Ragnar Ulfung ... Monostatos
Erik Sædén ... Talaren
Ulf Johansson ... Andra prästen - Second Priest
Gösta Prüzelius ... Första prästen
Jerker Arvidson ... Vakt i Prövningarnas Hus
The Magic Flute is a great story. It\'s fast-moving, funny, touching and Harry-Potter fantastical. It\'s ideal for film. Unfortunately, it is also an opera, a theatrepiece unavoidably diminished when not experienced live. Indeed, given this opera\'s fantastical nature it is a wonder that anyone manages to stage it competently at all. It would seem that mounting any sort of a production is a compromised, Faustian arrangement.
Inevitably perhaps, Bergman\'s The Magic Flute is a model of how opera could be seen on screen. Instead of a double compromise, he essentially succeeds in offsetting the detractions of one form with the advantages of the other. Where the modern audience may baulk at the formal oddity of the actors singing to a disembodied camera, he assuages us with an overture full of that audience - modern, multicultural, multigenerational and attentive. The players themselves, though occupying fantastical roles are occasionally shown in the wings or backstage, notably in an irreverent \'interval\' sequence.
In this way we are left watching a staged opera - Bergman has been able to avoid the temptation of filming either on \'location\' or in a studio... but if you watch closely, as the film progresses, the theatre becomes a studio, the camera moving onto the stage and changing the theatrical two-dimensions into a cinematic three. He manages to have it both ways.
With this subtlety at work it\'s almost superfluous to talk about the production of the opera itself, although Bergman\'s respect for it demands our scrutiny. Given the period restrictions of the Drottingholm theatre where it was filmed it\'s a fairly inventive production, with a good range of quickly implemented effects (a snowy penultimate sequence is in-theatre rather than in-studio and entirely convincing). The vocal performances are mixed - Hakan Hagegard\'s Papageno, Irma Urrila\'s Pamina and Birgit Nordin\'s Queen of the Night the pick of the bunch. Ulrik Cold and Ragnar Ulfung as Sarastro and Monostatos are comparatively weak.
A little tinkering with the running order may be to blame for a slowing of the pace just before the trials, close to the denouement. Otherwise this is a brilliant film, the perfect advocate for an opera hamstrung only by it being one. 9/10
I first saw this movie when I was in my teens, and it was the first opera experience I truly loved. Since I now work in opera, that was ultimately a very important event in my life! Bergman manages to achieve the impossible--a perfect synthesis of drama and music, the visual and the aural. (Years ago someone told me he thought that opera--the art that combines drama with music--ended up by denigrating both forms, and I don\'t completely disagree with that.) But in this almost magical movie, all of the flaws inherent in the piece (and there are many--poor dramatic structure, confusing story line, nonsensical plot elements) are ironed out, or somehow don\'t matter. Visually, it\'s sumptuous, thanks to Sven Nykvist\'s usual gorgeous cinematography, and aurally it\'s quite pleasing, despite some pretty mediocre singing--but thanks to Bergman\'s genius, that doesn\'t matter, either. Because of his careful work with the singing actors, every intention and dramatic impulse is realized, all motivations are clear--something you never see on an opera stage. Of course, much of it is impossible on an opera stage.....Bergman can use close-ups where opera can\'t. And a little ways into the opera, one realizes that gradually, imperceptibly, the stage has \"opened out\", and we\'re on sets and in places that would never be possible in a theater. He makes it all work, seamlessly.
In a way, the beautiful 18th-century Drottningholm Court Theater is a secondary star--one can\'t imagine a more perfect place for this opera to be performed. But the real star (among the singer/actors, at least) is Håkan Hagegård. There is no more beautiful and charming (both physically and vocally) Papageno imaginable--he became an international opera star a few years later. He more than compensates for all the other weak vocal links in the cast.
You\'ll never see a better \"Magic Flute\" than this.
Adapting theater to the screen is not easy. It is difficult enough to film a play; staying too close to the text can render the tone too \"stagy,\" while \"opening up\" the story can cause it to lose its authentic feel. Filming opera is twice as problematic- there is so much that is rooted to the stage and simply cannot be pulled away. How is it possible to film something that has been performed in such a specific, disciplined way for hundreds of years and keep all the elements fully intact? The answer has been provided by Ingmar Bergman, a man known to most of the world for harrowing films which peer unsentimentally into the depths of the human soul. With \"The Magic Flute,\" Bergman takes another great talent of his- theater direction- and combines it with his cinematic abilities to create an elaborate fantasy that even his detractors can enjoy.
Rather than just treating Mozart\'s opera as a story to be filmed, Bergman relies on familiar themes within the narrative to strike a balance between the stage and the screen while keeping the audience involved throughout. This is not to say that the story is simplified or made abundantly clear to any half-attentive viewer; the surprising accessibility of the film comes not from any reconstruction of the story but rather from an emphasis on elements that today\'s audience can easily recognize: sacrifices that are made for love, rebellion against the amoral nature of one\'s community, and magical occurrences that pop up just in time to save the hero, to name a few. Although the opera itself unfolds on a stage, with frequent reaction shots of the audience, Bergman\'s direction keeps us so deeply involved that tone is distinctly that of a film. Indeed, `The Magic Flute\' proves to be a very cinematic opera, and there are moments when the imagery, theatrical as it is, becomes so overwhelming that Bergman has to cut to the audience to remind us that we are in a theater.
`The Magic Flute\' is evidence that the `epic\' existed long before movies, and that much of what we enjoy viewing today owes its style to stories that have been told through vastly different mediums for centuries on end.