3 STARS – POWERFUL
This dark tale of a deformed child who killed his abuser and hid out in the Paris Opera House is a classic tale. Written by Gaston Leroux in 1911, what makes this most recent version unique is the haunting music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
For those who are unfamiliar with the tale, it is set in the days when gypsy sideshows would find deformed persons and charge people to see them. In one such show was a “child of the devil,” whose facial deformity gave him a grotesque appearance. When the gypsies came to Paris, a young dancer, Madam Giry (Miranda Richardson) from the Paris Opera saw him brutally abused and then gain the upper-hand on his abuser and murder him. Feeling compassion for him, she helped him escape into the underground world of the Opera House. It is here in this protected world that both his musical genius and his own abusive persona as “The Phantom” (Girard Butler) came to their full expression.
When Madam Giry adopted Christine (Emmy Rossum), the beautiful orphan daughter of her friend, and brought her to the Opera House, The Phantom came to the young girl during her times of prayer and claimed to be her deceased father’s promised “Angel of Music.” This deception created not only a spiritual confusion within Christine, but also a lover’s obsession within The Phantom.
In a dark melody that speaks of the “music of the night” we walk deep into the dungeons of both The Phantom’s home at the Opera House as well as the dungeons of his soul. This is often the case with both spiritual manipulation and obsessive love. Taking Christine’s love for God and her departed father and turning her prayer time into a manipulation of her emotions and desires, The Phantom only causes her sorrow and confusion.
In a similar way, when he lives in isolation with only his music to comfort him, unable to express his love in outward and acceptable ways, The Phantom’s love only scares Christine and ultimately causes a revulsion that drives her from him.
The moment of clarity comes to both of them when Christine realizes that The Phantom is not her “Angel of Music” and The Phantom realizes that he cannot force Christine to love him by threatening to kill her true lover, Raol (Patrick Wilson). It is in the kiss he demands and that The Phantom so longed to have that he realizes the truth. For her kiss to satisfy the longing of his soul, it had to be a gift of love freely given.
The spiritual deformity that The Phantom’s early soul experienced was begun to be healed in that moment as he left behind his mask covering his physical deformity and went up into the light of day. Though the film does not reveal whether or not his healing was completed, there is a single clue at the end of the film which revealed a long life and an undying love which nevertheless released her so she could freely love Raol.
Spiritual manipulation and obsessive love are common ingredients in human life, both of which sow the seeds of their own destruction. Though dark in content, this is a classic tale that is powerfully and beautifully presented both visually and musically.
- When Madam Giry rescued this young, abused boy she did not have the resources to rescue his soul. She abandoned him to the deep recesses of the Opera House where he tried to find his way. How different do you think his life would have been if he had received spiritual and emotional care? Do you think the world of 1911 had those resources to give or would he have been executed for his murder?
- The gift that The Phantom gave to Christine was developing in her the gift of music. Do you believe she abandoned her music when she left the Opera House, or do you believe she was able to continue her love for music?
- When Christine kissed The Phantom and tried to give him what he required, there is a sense that she did so in part because of her years-long devotion to him as her mentor. When he realized it was not what was best for her and let her go to Raol, he experienced true love. Have you ever had either experience: a devotion to a mentor that was confusing to you romantically or a need to let go of someone you love because it would be best for them?
- The power of music to move our emotions is felt within the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber. As the son of a Christian organist at the Central Methodist Hall in London, he grew up within the church and understood the power of music to communicate spiritual truths. Do you detect a spiritual “presence” in the music of this film? If so how do you experience it? Do you believe that evil sometimes presents itself as beautiful? Why or why not?