The Magic Flute (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/11/2007

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 135 mins

Kenneth Branagh's most ambitious project to date is impressively staged but it's unlikely to make any new converts and it never adds up to more than a curiosity for opera fans.

What's it all about?
Directed by Kenneth Branagh and adapted by Stephen Fry, The Magic Flute is essentially a filmed version of Mozart's classic opera, relocated to the trenches of World War I. Peace-loving soldier Tamino (Joseph Kaiser) is rescued from the chaos of No Man's Land by a trio of field nurses (Teuta Koco, Louise Callinan and Kim-Marie Woodhouse) and sent on a mission to save Pamina (Amy Carson), the daughter of the Queen of the Night, who has been kidnapped by the dark lord Sarastro (Rene Pape).

To aid Tamino in his mission, he is given a magical flute and a wisecracking sidekick in the form of canary-loving Papageno (Benjamin Jay Davis). However, when they arrive at Sarastro's castle, they discover that all is not what it seems.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly newcomer Amy Carson, who could have a huge career ahead of her on the strength of her work here. Kaiser is equally good and there's strong support from both Davis and the three cheeky nurses.

Sung in English throughout, the songs are impressively staged, though it's often difficult to make out the lyrics, which rather defeats the object as it renders the plot somewhat confusing in places.

The Bad
The World War I setting doesn't appear to bring anything particular to the story, beyond a politically safe context for the film's message of peace and love. Similarly, the sets are extremely theatrical-looking, which makes you wonder why they didn't just film a stage production instead.

In addition, the story itself isn't that engaging, particularly if you're unfamiliar with the source material and are struggling to work out what's going on.

Worth seeing?
The Magic Flute has a certain amount of curiosity value but it never comes together as a satisfying film. That said, opera buffs can probably go ahead and add another star.

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Content updated: 21/09/2018 11:16

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