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The Death of Klinghoffer (2003) More at IMDbPro »


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Alice Goodman (libretto)
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An adaptation from the John Adams opera on the true life incident that took place in the mid 80s. | Add synopsis »
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2 wins & 3 nominations See more »
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Propulsive Screen Adaptation of a Politically Charged Opera With Multiple Agendas See more (13 total) »


  (in credits order)
Sanford Sylvan ... Klinghoffer
Christopher Maltman ... Captain
Yvonne Howard ... Marilyn Klinghoffer
Tom Randle ... Molqui
Kamel Boutros ... Mamoud
Houda Echouafni ... Fatima
Leigh Melrose ... Rambo
Emil Marwa ... Omar
Susan Bickley ... Omar (singing voice)
Vivian Tierney ... Swiss Grandmother
Dean Robinson ... First Officer
Kirsten Blaise ... British Dancing Girl
Nuala Willis ... Austrian Woman
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Peter Banks ... Bernie, American Hostage
Neil Bell ... Jim, British Hostage
Rachel Bell ... Betsy, American Hostage
Syan Blake ... Helen, British Hostage
Ray Charleson ... Ben, Israeli Hostage
Lara Clifton ... Lorraine, British Hostage

Lin Clifton ... Mother

Julie Cox ... Young Hannah
Dylan Fielding ... Bob, American Hostage
Kelli Hollis ... Lisa-Marie, American Hostage
Juliette Kaplan ... Miriam, American Hostage
Tony Kirkland ... Steve, British Hostage
Andy Lucas ... Middle Eastern Expert
Della McCrae ... Grieving Relative

Alec Newman ... Young Benjamin
Rebecca Palmer ... Stella, British Hostage
Alexander Popplewell ... Didi

T.J. Ramini ... Ismael (as Tarek Ramini)

Joyce Springer ... Hannah

Directed by
Penny Woolcock 
Writing credits
Alice Goodman (libretto)

Produced by
Abi Bach .... line producer
Madonna Baptiste .... producer
Jan Younghusband .... executive producer
Cinematography by
Graham Smith 
Film Editing by
Brand Thumim 
Casting by
Nadira Seecoomar 
Production Design by
John Ellis 
Art Direction by
Heather Gibson 
Costume Design by
Claire Anderson 
Makeup Department
Jo Evans .... makeup supervisor
Jacqueline Fowler .... makeup artist: underwater sequence (as Jackie Fowler)
Michelle Garrett .... makeup artist
Jackie Grima .... makeup artist
Claire Jones .... key makeup artist
Nicola Powell .... makeup artist
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Edmund Coulthard .... assistant director: underwater sequences
Joe Geary .... first assistant director
Simon Hedges .... third assistant director
Daniel Scates .... second second assistant director
Andrea Slater .... second assistant director
Art Department
Mark Caruana .... construction manager
Barry Du Pille .... property master
Jeremy Duckham .... scenic artist
Sound Department
Julie Ankerson .... foley artist
Stuart Bruce .... sound recordist
John Fewell .... foley artist
Tim Handley .... sound
Mike Hatch .... sound
David McMillan .... boom operator
Annabelle Pangborn .... sound montage
Aad Wirtz .... sound re-recording mixer
Mark Kenna .... consultant: Dolby film sound (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Doug McCarthy .... special effects technician
Robert Thomas .... special effects supervisor
Visual Effects by
Simon Burley .... software and technical
Paul Heasman .... stunt coordinator
Andreas Petrides .... stunt coordinator
Lee Sheward .... stunt double: Klinghoffer
Camera and Electrical Department
David Attoe .... gaffer
Michael Bondin .... sparks
Susan Cane .... focus puller
Aaron Green .... gaffer: underwater unit
Elly Harrowes .... clapper loader (as Ellie Harrowes)
Cost Teluik .... sparks
Chris Thornton .... film recorder operator
Mike Valentine .... underwater camera operator
Mikey Pavia .... assistant gaffer (uncredited)
Casting Department
John Berry .... casting: opera
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Lucy Capron .... costume assistant
Leonora Stabb .... costume supervisor
Editorial Department
Simon Brook .... on-line editor
Kevin Phelan .... head of post-production: LipSync Post
Martin Southworth .... colorist
Music Department
John Adams .... conductor
Mike Hatch .... engineer
Dave Hinitt .... assistant music engineer
The London Symphony Chorus .... chorus
London Symphony Orchestra .... orchestra (as The London Symphony Orchestra)
Colin Matthews .... music editor
Transportation Department
Ivan Sammut .... action vehicle supervisor
Other crew
Winston Azzopardi .... production consultant
Adrian Borg Ghigo .... crowd marshall
Paulo Butera .... production runner
Kurt Chetcuti Bonarita .... production runner
Suzanne Facenfield .... production coordinator
Doug Green .... diving supervisor
Rosamund McArthy .... production accountant
Charlie Nancy .... production runner
Xenia Theodorous .... location assistant: Cyprus
Charlie Thompson .... location manager
Jean Turvey .... production coordinator
Erskine Vella .... production runner
Daniel Woldu .... production runner
George Wong .... production accountant
Nigel Wood .... production accountant

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

120 min
Filming Locations:

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
Propulsive Screen Adaptation of a Politically Charged Opera With Multiple Agendas, 11 July 2006
Author: Ed Uyeshima from San Francisco, CA, USA

Director Penny Woolcock deserves an immense amount of credit for providing a vibrant, emotionally expansive if not altogether dramatically effective 2003 screen translation of what was likely the last decade's most controversial opera. What began as an elaborate oratorio in 1991 was renowned composer John Adams' highly emotional "The Death of Klinghoffer", a controversial work with even greater political and emotional resonance post-9/11. The story concerns itself with the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by members of the Palestinian Liberation Front. It is related in a series of arias and recitatives by critical participants in the situation - the ship's captain and first officer; the four terrorists; and key passengers who were held captive over three days, in particular, the Klinghoffers who were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary.

Adams' familiar post-minimalist music turns out to be surprisingly compatible with the true-life story, as the propulsive vocal parts blend well with Alice Goodman's politically charged libretto. Sung off-screen to vivid montages, the beautiful choruses provide effective bridges and a broader context to the immediate drama of the opera, an aspect that was likely left quite abstract when sung onstage. The other powerful dimension Woolcock brings to this adaptation is the use of real locations and archived footage to make relevant the opera's overall abstraction to the viewer. This is a brave move since the political situation suddenly becomes actualized with the film. As it turns out, it is a dramatically smart move given that Woolcock has a strong cinematic sense of the story, for instance, she apparently cut twenty minutes of the music to make the story flow better, repositions powerful solo arias to enhance the characters' interactions, and adds often traumatizing historical footage and faux-news reports to give the story even greater realism. Solely from that standpoint, this may be the best screen adaptation of a major opera I have ever seen.

The biggest challenge of this production, however, is Goodman's libretto, which seems intent on supporting both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For instance, the opera takes the bold step of putting Israelis and Nazis on the same plain by comparing images of a post-Holocaust concentration camp with those of a mass grave from the 1982 slaughter at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps. In making such an exerted effort to share the motivation of the terrorists as well as the suffering of the crew and passengers, the drama becomes somewhat diluted by the multiple perspectives. By contrast, look at Paul Greengrass' recent "United 93" for a successful example of shifting varying viewpoints without losing the overall dramatic momentum. Some contend that the opera takes discernible political sides, though I think it's a mistake to brand the work as purely pro-Palestinian since the Klinghoffers are portrayed sympathetically if rather one-dimensionally as people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. In particular, the execution of husband Leon, paralyzed from a stroke and wheelchair-bound, is shown shockingly as the act of a thug more than that of a political terrorist.

Fortunately, Woolcock has recruited world-class singers who are able to tone down their singing for the cameras. The standouts are baritone Christopher Maltman as the conflicted captain; fellow baritone Leigh Melrose, who makes the macho posturing of the aptly named terrorist, "Rambo", feel palpable; and in the film's only comic moment, soprano Kirsten Blasé, who makes her cowering showgirl a convincing media whore. Surprisingly, the Klinghoffers are not given arias to sing until near the end, but mezzo-soprano Yvonne Howard is dynamic as Marilyn especially as she confronts the captain. Baritone Sanford Sylvan, a familiar Adams regular who played Chou En-Lai in "Nixon in China", has one powerful aria sung as a voice-over to an extended, haunting image of his dead body sinking deeper into the ocean. In another interesting voice-over done to accommodate the original opera's doubling of roles, a non-singing actor, Emil Marwa, plays the most vulnerable terrorist, Omar, while mezzo Susan Bickley sings his inner thoughts. The 2003 DVD has a surprising number of extras for an opera production, including a commentary track from Woolcock and various cast members. The best extra is an interesting making-of documentary, "Filming 'The Death of Klinghoffer'", which includes tandem interviews with Adams and Woolcock and goes into the major aspects of putting the challenging production together.

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