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Aria (1987)

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Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors, including Ken Russell, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, and Nicolas Roeg. Each short uses an aria as soundtrack/sound (... See full summary »


(segment), (segment) | 8 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Roy Hyatt ...
Chauffeur (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Sevilla Delofski ...
Maid (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Ruth Halliday ...
Companion (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Major (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Dennis Holmes ...
Colonel (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Paul Brightwell ...
Assassin (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Frank Baker ...
Assassin (segment "Un ballo in maschera")
Christopher Hunter ...
Assassin (segment "Un ballo in maschera") (as Chris Hunter)
Nicola Swain ...
Marie (segment "La virgine degli angeli")
Jackson Kyle ...
Travis (segment "La virgine degli angeli")
Marianne McLoughlin ...
Kate (segment "La virgine degli angeli")


Ten short pieces directed by ten different directors, including Ken Russell, Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, and Nicolas Roeg. Each short uses an aria as soundtrack/sound (Vivaldi, Bach, Wagner), and is an interpretation of the particular aria. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A superbly sensual experience See more »


Comedy | Drama | Music


R | See all certifications »




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Release Date:

30 October 1987 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Ária  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Orson Welles agreed to direct one segment, and asked for a contract to be sent to him in Los Angeles. Welles died before signing the contract, which had been sent, according to Producer Don Boyd, to an address which turned out to be that of the funeral parlor, in which he was laid out. Boyd is still unsure whether this was Welles' final joke. See more »


Les Jeunes Filles: [Armide segment] He looks like he's made for love. He hasn't found my eyes charming enough. He hasn't found my eyes charming enough.
Les Jeunes Filles: O how I'd love to hate him.
See more »


Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Video Discoveries (1989) See more »


Rigoletto (extracts)
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Performed by Robert Merrill, Anna Moffo, Alfredo Kraus with RCA Italiana Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Conducted by Georg Solti (as George Solti)
segment "Rigoletto"
(extracts - "Questa o quella", "Gualtier Malde... caro nome", "La donna e' mobile" and "Addio, addio")
See more »

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User Reviews

Opera's Passing Parade
28 March 2013 | by See all my reviews

I saw this film when it first came out in the theaters and a recent viewing on DVD only confirms my initial opinion that it's a masterpiece, though a flawed one. So I've been baffled by the abuse heaped upon it over the years by critics and viewers and decided to finally air my own thoughts and what I feel may be the reasons for said abusel

My take on this film differs from others. First, I'm convinced that in order to fully appreciate it you have not only to love opera but see it as something essential to your life. Furthermore, you must also be willing to agree and identify with the viewpoint of the films' creators: that this all-consuming passion with opera places one's estate in today's world in a cultural time warp.

Though there aren't many out there who fit this description, I feel it accurately defines the demographic of Aria's audience. I also believe that producer Don Boyd and any others who conceived of the daring idea for this film, and whose job it was to make ten scenes written and directed independently by different people somehow "coalesce," knew exactly what they were doing, even though the project seems occasionally to have gone awry. (The episodes using recordings of Baroque opera, directed by Jean luc Goddard and Robert Atman, though interesting in themselves, are bafflingly out of place)

Most of the episodes were cleverly organized to achieve both a cumulative musical effect and further the film's dramatic theme, which is gradually unveiled by the entre'acte activities of the seemingly enigmatic character portrayed by John Hurt who keeps appearing between episodes. A kernel of that theme arrives in the very first episode, a 20th Century reenactment of the assassination of a Swedish king as portrayed in Verdi's "In Ballo Maschera" (playing on the soundtrack). But contrary to Verdi, where a diffident king dies without resistance in the arms of his beloved, and in glorious song, Nicholas Roeg has his protagonist unexpectedly defend himself, shooting all of the would-be assassins dead, and thus confounding his significant other.

With the exception of Bruce Beresford's take of "Die Tote Stadt," none of the other episodes are dramatically faithful to their operas. Instead most seem designed to reflect an absurd disparity between the remantic sentiments of dead composers from past centuries playing on the soundtrack and the glaring realities of an every- day world gone mad: homeless children roving the streets; a couple's disastrous attempt to cheat on their spouses at a sex-themed resort; teens slashing their wrists under the neon glitz of Las Vegas, etc.

As the episodes progress, the film's concern with death --- grand opera's favorite obsession --- becomes overriding. Also, recorded excerpts of busy operatic ensembles give way in the later episodes to arias sung by a single voice.

The penultimate episode, directed by Derek Jarmon, forms arguably the film's dramatic climax. A single, radiant old woman, dressed in a frayed, gossamer stage costume and lit from above, is seen bowing over and over as accolades of flower pedals rain on her from on high. The beatific vision is accompanied by the aria "Depuis le jour" from "Luise," sung by a mellifluous Leontyne Price. The woman personifies opera itself, old and tattered but reveling in her memories, taking one last bow as she bids a splended farewell to her loving and appreciative audience, unseen but undoubtedly as wrinkled and antediluvian as she.

And then the final episode, in which John Hurt mimes Leoncavallo's Canio singing "Vesti la giubba." As was the old woman, he too represents opera --- or perhaps the opera-loving audience itself --- over-the-top, pouring his heart out to a single, female audience member in an otherwise empty opera house. Close-ups of the woman reveal her barely concealed scorn for the singer. And when she too leaves, the abandoned man falls dead, the victim of, yes, a "broken heart!" Only a true opera lover could identify with such histrionics.

Up to now the music used by each director had been made by recent opera stars in contemporary-sounding recordings: Price, Bergonzi, etc. But perhaps to highlight the theme of opera's passed parade, this final episode is accompanied using Pagliacci's aria sung by Enrico Caruso in a recording made nearly a century ago. Perhaps it is being suggested that the social revelance of opera has in fact died longer ago than even the films creators had imagined!

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