The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Due to the snowfall last evening, our cable TV feed was intermittent, so we decided to watch a DVD from our extensive video library. It was Susan’s suggestion to watch this one. I’d seen it once before, but never thought to write about it, until now.
There are so many levels, to this movie/show/story, that it is almost too much to contemplate in one short blog, but I shall attempt to do it justice.
The use of candlelight (since that era did not yet use electricity) was spectacular. As everyone knows, candlelight has a softening effect on what we’re watching, so I can just imagine what this does to the female viewer. Just putting a few candles in the bathroom can give some idea to the overall warmth that a bath would have. As the Phantom’s lair is so far underground, it gives an aura of comfort, despite the fact of it being a literal hell on earth. Even the passage to it is a River Styx: crossing underground water canals.
When the Phantom first took Christine through the mirror, the passageway was lit by swinging candelabras of light.
Later, when Meg enters the same way and tries to follow Christine, this is what she saw:
So Christine was right that everything about the Phantom was all “inside her mind”.
The Use of Mirrors as a Metaphor
Everything around us is a mirror of our thinking. Think about that! Starting from the very first physical contact with the Phantom, mirrors play a very important part of Christine’s story. The subtlety of that metaphor is not lost on me.
What is ‘real’ and what is just the ‘reflection’? It’s an eternal question, and one that is markedly significant in the Phantom’s story. Evidently, he was ‘marked’ from childhood, used as an living exhibit in a sideshow, in other words, abused as a child.
This has made him crave affection, but he is only confident when he’s wearing his mask, to cover the ‘blemish’. When Christine removes the mask, he is furious. He thinks she will despise him. All the mirrors are covered in his lair, until the end, when mask-less, he breaks all the glass. It’s a breakthrough of sorts.
Choosing Between Two Suitors
This is the point when I started to see the echo of The Bachelorette TV show, down to the use of a single rose. Art imitating art?
Christine’s choice was definitely ‘black’ or ‘white’. Bad boys are mesmerizing, for sure, but what woman can resist a knight on a charger? Raoul is a Viscount, and he’s always loved Christine. But until she headlined the opera, he hadn’t known where she was.
During the sword fight between Raoul and the Phantom, Christine stops Raoul from killing him. She doesn’t want to cause any harm to this thing inside her mind.
The choice between Nobility, on one hand, and Debasement, on the other, then comes down to a win-win for the Phantom, and a lose-lose for Christine.
He gives her an ultimatum: either she sleeps with him, or he kills Raoul. Some choice…
Christine, recognizing what is really going on, does the one thing that no one expects: she tenderly kisses the Phantom and tells him that he’ll never be alone. In response, the Phantom tells her to take Raoul and leave, immediately. That’s the last we see of the lovers as Raoul paddles the boat taking the two of them back out of the underground lair. The Phantom then disappears, too.
This is a story as old as time, told again and again and again. Think “Beauty and the Beast”, for example. Fairy tales have a purpose in life. They allow truth to be told, under the disguise of ‘just a story’. The ultimate purpose is to hold up a mirror to the heroine of the tale, the viewer. She gets to see both sides of her own personality play out in front of her eyes. As Eve, she chooses between Adam and the Serpent. One choice will prolong the human species, the other will bring her enlightenment. Most women want the safer option: it’s only nature, after all.
The final image of the movie brings an interesting ‘flashback’ for Raoul, who is now at the graveside of his wife, Christine, a Contessa, no less. There’s the rose…and a ring.
It really was just a Bachelorette movie, after all.