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Magic Flute, The


Stars: Joseph Kaiser, Amy Carson, Ben Davis, Tom Randle, Rene Pape, Silvia Moi, Lyubov Petrova

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Director Branagh tries all sorts of camera tricks - often from dizzying heights - and special effects to bring cinematic life to Mozart's opera. Alas, what seems delightful on stage is decidedly un-magical on screen. Opera-lovers will be intrigued to see how this works (or doesn't) as a film, but ordinary cinemagoers will tire of the same phrases being sung over and again, and be put off by the lack of any names they recognise.

Branagh sets the action in a fairy-tale version of World War One, as soldier Tamino (Kaiser) searches for the girl (Carson), with whose photo he has fallen in love. Fate - and the three field nurses who save him - gives him the chance to win the girl and end the war.

The singing's pretty good, with Russia's Petrova in spectacular voice as the Queen of the Night, but there's not enough depth and detail to the story, much as Branagh (who has a hard-to-spot cameo role) tries to supply it. His best image is a chorus of singing sandbags, reminiscent of the Clay Men in the old Flash Gordon serials.

Stephen Fry's English libretto is perfectly serviceable, but with the occasional clunker, as when resistible comic relief Ben Davis complains that 'I could end this pain I'm feeling just by swinging from the ceiling' while contemplating a hangman's noose.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2006. UK Distributor: Revolver. Colour.
139 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Nov 2007