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Marcus H. Rosenmüller
Actor and writer Stephen Fry explores his passion for the world's most controversial composer - Richard Wagner. But Stephen is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust, so can he salvage the music he loves from its dark association with anti-semitism and the Nazis? Shot on location in Germany, Switzerland and Russia, the film includes unique behind-the-scenes access to the Bayreuth Festival, the annual extravaganza of Wagner's music held in the composer's own purpose built theatre. Animated by Stephen Fry's trademark wit and intelligence, and featuring a soundtrack of Wagner's extraordinary music, this is a fantastic introduction to the life and legacy of one of the most important composers ever, and a must-see film for those who already know and love his music. Written by
Himself - Presenter:
Imagine a great, beautiful, intricate tapestry of infinite colour, that has been stained indelibly. It's still a beautiful tapestry, with miraculous workmanship and gorgeous colour and silken texture, but that stain is real, and, I'm afraid, Hitler and Nazism have stained Wagner. For some people, that stain ruins the whole work. For others, it is just something you have to face up to. But here, as storm clouds gather in Nuremberg... Here is a place to think about such things
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This beautifully shot documentary offers tempting glimpses of Bayreuth and the goings on there. But those glimpses really just scratch the surface. Probed at greater length if not depth are the mixed feelings of Stephen Fry about the place and about Wagner, the man who built it.
His misgivings are very well founded, since the place and the composer were closely associated with Hitler and still are. But, though Fry is a smart, genuine, and entertaining man, in this film he really doesn't convey his feelings in a way that makes for compelling viewing. Too much of the film is Fry in awe of the place--the architecture, a conductor's chair, a door knob--while worrying about the Nazi taint.
Parts are well done, especially an interview with an Auschwitz survivor who doesn't get why Fry is so enthralled with the place. But an interview with Wagner's great granddaughter Eva, who co-directs the Bayreuth Festival with her half-sister, is just odd. She doesn't respond well to any of Fry's questions and eventually walks off. Are we to conclude that she's aware of the Nazi taint and highly embarrassed? It's hard to tell.
There's much to be curious about regarding the history of the Festival and its operation, but that's not the topic of this film. Even for someone curious about Stephen Fry's ambivalence to the experience filmed here, what's offered is regrettably superficial.
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