Cybersurfing: Listening to Branagh’s Magic Flute

Kenneth Branagh directs the Three Ladies, depicted as sexy World War I nurses. 

If you were not paying attention, you probably did not know that in 2006 Kenneth Branagh had directed a film version of Mozart’s fantasy opera THE MAGIC FLUTE, with the story res-set during World War I. In the Los Angeles Times’ Critic Notebook, music critic mark Swed laments the obscurity into which the film has fallen since failing to find U.S. distribution:

I am at a loss to understand why this film has been marginalized. Branagh’s “Flute” is a joy. [...]

Branagh has a deft touch with Mozartean contrasts between magic and realism. Half fairy tale, half war drama, the film also goes its own way. Sometimes Branagh supplies reason where Mozart relied on fantasy, and other times he takes the opposite route. The dragon becomes threatening poison gas. Papageno is the birdman whose pigeons test the air underground. Actual flutes, though, fly. The Queen of the Night arrives atop a tank and later darts through the sky like a kinky Tinkerbell. Surreal lips fly in space. So do Mary Poppins umbrellas.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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