Ingmar Bergman’s version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is a magical fairy tale of a production.
Opera Fizzby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Ingmar Bergman’s revived 1975 version of Mozart’s opera makes an uncharacteristically playful film for him about what is essentially a custody battle fought on a metaphysical level. Bergman sets his The Magic Flute in a recreated small theatre of Mozart’s time. The opera performance starts like a visually imagined fairy tale that has two parallel story lines. The Queen of the Night (Birgit Nordin) asks Prince Tamino (Josef Köstlinger) to retrieve her daughter Pamina (Irma Urrila) from the magician/priest Sarastro (Ulrik Cold). He’s joined on his quest by comical bird-catcher Papageno (Håkån Hagegård) – looking disconcertingly like Benny from Abba – who is desperate to find a mate of his own.
Deliberately artificial sets create a fantasy world, where harmless animals who look as if they have escaped from Where The Wild Things Are lumber across the stage and the 2-D trees in the forest are cardboard cutouts.
When Sarastro is found, the film takes a darker turn with his hermetic hosting of the meeting of a disciple-like Masonic brotherhood, though they are the representatives of virtue and wisdom. Like every good prince, Tamino survives his trials to find his princess, Papageno finds his Papagena (Elisabeth Erikson) where he least expects it and goodness triumphs over evil as sublime music and beautiful voices wash over the audience – throughout Bergman incorporates their reactions into the film, especially those of a young girl, emphasising the accessibility of the production he’s filming.
The Magic Flute is released on 16 March 2018 in the UK.