Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Fantasy of The Magic Flute

What caught my attention and began my journey of dabbling in as a casual opera-viewer a few years ago was the emotional intensity of the art form. It's exciting. It's pure emotion in the form of sound. And that's genuine escapism as a viewer/hearer sitting in the theatre. So when I came across the trailer for a film entitled The Magic Flute that appeared to be a fantasy storm about entering into the Mozart opera of the same name, I just had to see it.

While the theatrical run was so limited that it appears to already be over after a week, I am glad I got to see it in theatres because there you have the benefit of theatrical sound quality for all of that Mozart music. Going off of reviews, it seems that people knowledgeable in music and opera did not find this film notable for its singing talent--but it isn't an opera as a film. It's a fantasy story that happens to have an opera as its fantasy world. And I love that concept.

It's like Narnia, in the sense of the fantasy world. The lead character, Tim, is a teenager whose father has just died and who has just started at a prestigious music school. He wants to do well but finds that he is lacking something. And what he finds is a portal in the school into The Magic Flute, where he is the opera's protagonist. In his journey to escape into the fantasy of the opera, he finds the tug back to the real world--as the plot thickens in the fantasy, he finds that he is also missing out on more from the real world by trying to get back to the fantasy. So the way that he "wins" inside the fantasy is by pulling in from his experiences in the real world. It's a classic concept of finding out how much the real world matters by finding mirrors for it within fantasy. And also a return to that concept of art theory, of remembering that the sharing of emotional experience is part of the core of art--so if you lose the emotion, which is rooted in real world experience, then you are also losing the very point of cultivating art.

Perhaps the frame story of the real world was imperfect. We bounce from Tim's dying father to his new female friend/crush, to his school roommate who is dealing with the aftermath of his own loss--and the layer of their themes basically fits but could use some refining. Though the mirror of these elements with those of the opera isn't perfect, I don't necessarily mind. Though perhaps most theatergoers won't connect with the extended length of some of the opera sequences, I didn't mind. Maybe some of the pacing, the back-and-forthing between the two worlds, could have been tweaked a bit, but I still really enjoyed this movie.

I probably would have enjoyed it for the mere fact that you get to see the main character singing his dramatic song while a giant snake is attacking him. That was wonderful. It brought back echoes of Black Swan. I didn't like everything about that movie's content, but I really enjoyed the way that it emphasized the edgy emotional quality of the ballet music. The same type of thing went on in this movie--just through the filter of a YA fantasy school story instead of a psychological thriller. Mozart's music could make up the score and bring in its full emotional weight reinterpreted for a new era of CG monsters and castles. I loved that this movie just went for it and did something completely fresh, though still based on familiar tropes. I wish it had been marketed more; I barely had a chance to know that it existed and barely was able to catch it in the theatre, so it didn't have much chance to introduce new audiences to opera. I'd love to see more content like this, in the sense of reworking classics into new formats and playing around with them. 

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