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Parsifal (1982)

Richard Wagner's last opera has remained controversial since its first performance for its unique, and, for some, unsavory blending of religious and erotic themes and imagery. Based on one ... See full summary »


(as Hans Jürgen Syberberg)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Armin Jordan ... Amfortas
Martin Sperr ... Titurel
Robert Lloyd ... Gurnemanz
Michael Kutter ... Parsifal 1
Karin Krick ... Parsifal 2
Aage Haugland ... Klingsor
Edith Clever ... Kundry
Rudolph Gabler ... Gralsritter
Urban von Klebelsberg ... Gralsritter
Bruno Romani-Versteeg ... Gralsritter
Monika Gärtner ... Knappen (as Monika Gaertner)
Thomas Fink ... Knappen
David Meyer ... Knappen
Judith Schmidt ... Knappen
Anahita Farroschad ... Klingsors Zaubermädchen, Höchste und mittlere Höhen


Richard Wagner's last opera has remained controversial since its first performance for its unique, and, for some, unsavory blending of religious and erotic themes and imagery. Based on one of the medieval epic romances of King Arthur and the search for the holy grail (the chalice touched by the lips of Christ at the last supper), it recounts over three long acts how a "wild child" unwittingly invades the sacred precincts of the grail, fulfilling a prophecy that only such a one can save the grail's protectors from a curse fallen upon them. Interpreters of the work have found everything from mystical revelation to proto-fascist propaganda in it. Hans-Jurgen Syberberg's production doesn't avoid either aspect, but tries synthesize them by seeking their roots in the divided soul of Wagner himself. The action unfolds on a craggy landscape which turns out to be a gigantic enlargement of the composer's death mask, among deliberately tatty theatrical devices: puppets, scale models, ... Written by Roger Downey

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Drama | Music


PG | See all certifications »





Release Date:

May 1982 (West Germany)  »


Box Office


DEM 3,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


(3 parts)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Among the severed heads at the base of the broken phallus in Klingsor's castle (symbolizing the self-castration that gave the wizard his powers - this is one weird opera) are those of Karl Marx, Wagner himself...and Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who was one of Wagner's most devoted champions until he broke with him over this very opera (he despised Christianity as a "slave" religion and thought Wagner had caved in to bourgeois morality). See more »


Version of Parsifal (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Syberbergian Seeds The Size of Gorilla Nuts
2 April 2007 | by See all my reviews

This DVD broke my resin-caked heart. Hans Jurgen Syberberg holds a special place in that same sticky heart for directing the longest stoner flick every made, the massive nine-hour Hitler - Ein Film Aus Deutschland. You had to have a kitchen garbage bag chock full of weed to get through all of it, but it is sooo worth it. So I was over the moon when Syberberg had directed a movie of Wagner's Parcifal but not because of the double-dose of self importance one gets from watching both New German Cinema and opera (the more bored you are, the more important you become for sitting through it). No, I was looking forward to puppets and outrageous visuals staged and projected onto those trademark black backgrounds, with a big buttery snow globe to balance it out. Syberberg is obsessed with snow globes and the one in Parcifal is a beaut: a Shining like hedge maze, covered in snow, in the middle of which a giant silver tree with no leaves grows, a fitting symbol for the innocent child-knight's journey to self-discovery through incest. It's great to watch stoned; Rosebud meets kind bud. We also have Wagner's death mask forming the landscape, with the decapitated heads of 19th century German superstars (Marx, Goethe, Nietchze und alles) lined in a row against puppets plunging drills into huge bloody ears . Just makes you're lungs water thinking about it, huh? Well, forget it. The fatal flaw of Parcifal is the singing. Every time someone sings Syberberg parks his camera on them and waits till they finish. And since this is opera, they never finish. He will lay a close-up on you and let his foghorns yap until your t-shirt is covered in drool. Then, in the rare instances no one is singing , the screen takes off into the Syberbergian stuff of dreams. Then someone starts huffing and the whole things crashes to Earth. I don't even think Syberberg was able to get to everything he wanted to in this picture; Hell, there's only one Swastika. How can you have a Syberberg picture, especially one of an opera who's meaning was high-jacked by the Nazis, and have only one Swastika? It's like having a Cheech and Chong picture without some weirded out vehicle for them to drive around in for the whole movie. Even the sex change has nearly no impact. Instead of close-ups, the director would have done better by doing most of the songs as voice-overs, showing the scenes the singers sing about instead of the singer. Or Syberberg could have had his tab of acid and dropped it too, if he had projected film images of the singers over otherworldly scenes of wonder. But no, instead we have a big, sticky kind bud of a dope picture that is riddled with seeds the size of gorilla nuts, nuts called songs. Also, this DVD is merely a transfer of the VHS version that came out in the late Eighties. This means it's full screen and you have to deal with the Nazi -era translation of this opera, something which I'm not sure is done on purpose; it's ironic either way. This film does deserve a wide-screen treatment, though, as well as new subtitles. Mein Deutsche Grammatik Sheisshaus ist, but even twice- baked Tiskit could tell that what they were singing did match what was on screen, especially during the pop-up incest segments. The great visuals over the instrumentals rate a full nine leaves, the best you can get, but the singing parts are little but seeds and stems. So, let's average it out and call it Four Leaves: Worthwhile. Will get a small, pleasant hum from.

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