Friday, February 6, 2015

Cinema Cycle - The Magic Flute

(Cardio Workout And Reviewing Movies At The Same Time)

DATE: 02/06/2015

TITLE: Die ZauberFlote (The Magic Flute)

FORMAT: LaserDisc

TIME RIDDEN / FILM LENGTH: 2 hours 30 minutes


SYNOPSIS: The Queen of the Night (Isis) schemes to have a young prince kill the Day King (Osiris) in exchange for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

CONCEPT IN RELATION TO THE VIEWER: The average modern viewer can not relate much to this work.  It comes from a different era where social concepts and relationships were perceived differently.  In the most simplistic terms, true love will find a way, although it will take a very indirect path to get there.

PROS AND CONS: Where to begin with this one?  This is one of the reasons that I started collecting LaserDiscs.  You can’t find content like this very often unless you really go looking for it.  
A couple of pre-cursors to this viewing.  It is an opera, shot in Germany and sung in German.  I watched it in 4:3 format to preserve the subtitles to the dialogue and music.  The media is on 2 laserdics (4 sides) but only takes up 2.5 hours of content, which means the production could have fit onto just three sides (it is not a CAV format disc).  I tend to color anything done by Mozart in the light of the movie ‘Amadeus’, which paints the picture of Mozart as he probably was, young, brash, irreverent, inspired and...oh yes, a genius.  

The plot is almost too difficult to explain.  It centers around the king of the day and the queen of the night, their daughter and the young prince that pursues and marries her.  There are all sorts of twists and turns in the plot, so much so, that I could never tell what was coming next.

There is a long list of odd characters that populate the opera, the strangest of which is the Moorish slave that serves the king of the day.  He is played in blackface by a white actor and his singing and behavior are extremely politically incorrect by today’s standard.  The Prince's sidekick throughout the opera, Papagino is almost as odd, not to mention the three young boy muses that float above the stage guiding the young prince (trippy).

What makes this a fascinating work to watch is the window that it gives you on society back in the 1700s.  The viewer has to keep in mind that this was state of the art entertainment in its day and was meant to be viewed by the elite that made up the 1% of 18th century European society.  In that regard Mozart snuck in as much satire and political commentary as he could.  So this is sort of a musical comedy with political undertones.   At its core, this work serves as a primer for society, both poor and aristocratic, on how to act and behave properly.  Themes of true love, devotion, honor and proper governance abound in this work.  

Back in the day, times were slower and nothing was done very quickly.  By today’s standards, it was almost a world in slow motion and this opera demonstrates that.  It is slow.  Painfully slow in some sections, where the characters will take 5 minutes to describe the smell of a flower or the beauty of the stars in the night sky.  The comedy is a bit dated but must have been side splitting in its day.  Then again, keep in mind that viewing this work back in 1790, you expected to get your monies worth so there was no hurry to get to the end.  

To read an overview of this project, check out the initial post for this series.
This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection.  
This film was viewed while exercising on my recumbent cycle.  A summary of my time spent working out on my journey through movie-land can be found on

The summary of the project and a glimpse of what is coming up next can be found on my public LaserDisc spreadsheet.