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“The Magic Flute” strikes all the wrong tunes when covering Mozart’s masterpiece

“The Magic Flute” strikes all the wrong tunes when covering Mozart’s masterpiece

A German fantasy adventure take on Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte co-produced by Roland Emmerich doesn’t sounds so much like ambitiously artistic entertainment for a younger audience than like the realization of every opera lover’s worst nightmare. While Florian Sigl’s screen adaption of the titular masterpieceisn’t that bad, it’s also nowhere near any good. A framing plot as unoriginal as its unnecessary only underlines the debut director’s and screenwriter Andrew Lowery’s refusal to update their more than 200 years old source material and a visible lack of budget, resulting in embarrassingly unconvincing special effects and sets as well as limited locations. 

Financial issues could have been overcome with imagination but innovation is not the strong side of a two-pronged plot about privileged voice student Tim (Jack Wolfe) who lives thanks to some free masonic magic the adventures of prince Tamino. The fantasy action clings closely to the libretto while the modern day scenes are an harry-potterish line-up of terrible teen romance cliches. The straight white cis-male hero looks like the serial sorcerer minus glasses, the flute standing in for a magic wand, and quirky teachers (among them F. Murray Abraham) roam the so-called holy halls of the Mozarteum.

Mimicking toxic TERF J.K. Rowling comes across as misguided as a willful romanticized reference to Michael Jackson, but feels frustratingly apt given the story’s assiduous avoidance of queer context. Tim’s outsider room mate Paolo’s (Elliot Courtiour) grieving for a friend implies queerplatonic or gay-romantic feelings which are brushed aside by a deeply problematic subplot about suicidal tendencies. Sarastro’s villainous servant Monostatos is defined by his scarred physic and turned into an exemplary trope of the depraved bisexual. As all-sexual heteronormativity is idealized as prime goal, Mozart’s genius succumbs to cringy commercialization, less infatuated with the composer than with conservatism. 

  • OT: The Magic Flute
  • Director: Florian Sigl
  • Screenplay: Andrew Lowery, Emanuel Schikaneder
  • Country: Germany
  • Year: 2022
  • Running Time: 129 min. 
  • Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Iwan Rheon, Jeanne Goursaud, Stéfi Celma, Amir Wilson, Jack Wolfe, Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht, Ryan Hadaller, Elliot Courtiour, Waldemar Kobus, Niamh McCormack, Larissa Sirah Herden, Stefan Konarske, Asha Banks, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Tedros Teclebrhan
  • Release date: 17.11.2022
  • Image © Tobis