Monday, February 15, 2016


Bergman and Mozart are settling accounts with their mothers


This film is mythical both because the opera by Mozart is a real prodigious miracle of naive purity in a century of pure violence and horror that will end up with the blood bath of the French revolution and Napoleon, but also because the adaptation of this opera to the silver screen by Ingmar Bergman is considered as unique and historic.

Though he uses some special effects, the director uses first of all a whole set of machines and means that are stage tools more than screen effects but they are obviously made visible in their mechanisms. No secret, no hidden trick. I call a spade a spade. And at times the director plays with our senses so that the three angels now and then look like three girls and in other sequences like three boys. All the animals are obviously stuffed animals or human beings dressed in the loose skins of animals. That is supposed to be meant for children, but at the same time it creates a universe that could be magic like the famous Wonderland but is in fact friendly and reassuring like Winnie the Pooh.

Then that enables the director to concentrate on the human dimension of the opera. If the affair between Papageno and Papagena and all their Papagenis is simple, easy-going, as clear as spring water, the affair between Tamino and Pamina is quite more difficult to come and get through all kinds of obstacles and thresholds that have to be stepped over in order for the two to finally get together.

But I would like to insist on one particular element in the plot. Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night is in fact kept prisoner by her mother as a vengeance against her father, Sarastro, who is the high priest of another religion than the religion of the triple goddess. He is the high priest of a temple dedicated to reason, to brotherhood, to what is quite clearly the 18th century ideal of free masonry. The Queen of the Night sounds like some kind of fable, fairy tale and is the last waning form of old paganism, of old animism that the triple goddess represents with its perfect form in the Ancient Greek mythology and its folkloric form in Germanic mythology. Shakespeare even turned them into the three weird sisters, three witches.

Mozart is from his age but the mother absolutely wants her vengeance to be carried out by her daughter who is thus entrusted with killing her own father. Mozart is setting up the anti-Oedipal situation of a daughter killing her father to be the slave of her mother. It is so unnatural that we have the absolute right to wonder what was in Mozart’s mind when he composed this opera. In 1693, at the end of the 17th century Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Thomas Corneille had composed and produced the very classic opera Medea that shows a similar vengeance from the mother against the father but this traditional story centers on the mother killing the children (two sons) to punish the father.

Here Mozart distorts this tradition by building a totally psychotic situation that should normally lead to the worst possible tragic dramas. And yet he turns it around and makes it a victory of the reasonable and enlightened father over the vengeful and distorted-minded mother. But this is only possible because the child in question is a girl and not a boy which makes killing the father absolutely impossible since the father is the object of her primal desire. The most surprising element here is that Mozart seems to be following Jung and rejecting Freud. Mozart could not be that anachronistic of course since he could not know the future, but the director is quite another story.

That leads to a double conclusion. Mozart probably had some problem with mothers since he was the victim of and at the same time the prodigy produced by his own father with no mother actually mentioned any time, but the director of the film makes it appear as if Mozart was symbolically assassinating his own father and yet saving him because of his great reasonable enlightenment.

A very good adaptation of an opera to the silver screen and also a very good modern rewriting of the story and plot.

The music is of course mesmerizing, though the Swedish language lacks some firm vowels and sounds, some clearer vocalic architecture due to the crushing of many vowels into some schwas hardly colored at times with some ‘o’ or ‘a’ or ‘u’ variations that make these vowels fuzzy and in contrast with the clear cut vowels of Papageno or Papagena. But of course we are biased by the fact we know the German version and the very rich vocalic architecture of this language.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?