The Magic Flute review

Setting Mozart’s feather-light 1791 opera in the killing fields of the Great War, Ken Branagh’s ambitious adaptation isn’t likely to win over those who hail Ingmar Bergman’s 1975 version a masterpiece. But while Bergman’s take remained stage-bound, Blighty’s greatest Shakespearean at least makes the experience cinematic – opening with a virtuoso pan across a battlefield, floating through the fighter-filled sky and down along the trenches to introduce Tamino (Joseph Kaiser), the hero sent to rescue truelove Pamina (Amy Carson) from the evil Sarastro (Rene Pape). Love it or loathe it, the silliness in the story is all Mozart’s, while Stephen Fry’s translation includes the odd gleeful zinger (“I can end this pain I’m feeling, just by swinging from the ceiling!”). Branagh’s imagery is imaginative and the music lifts you. A neat trick.

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