Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Film Reel

The Phantom of the Opera

I won't be posting a Friday Film Reel every Friday, just on the Fridays that strike me. Someone suggested I review movies from a therapist perspective, so I picked The Phantom of the Opera because it's a favorite.

One reason is that there are many juxtapositions in the play, of course. The main one being between the dark, sexy Phantom and the heroic, noble Raoul. Besides the fact that Gerard Butler (an all-time fav of mine) plays the Phantom in the Hollywood film version, the therapist side of me really feels for the guy, which is another reason I love the flick. I mean, come on. He doesn't even have a name. He was "Devil's Child" when being paraded around the the circus and then just "Phantom." His facial scarring left him emotionally scarred, as well. I don't condone his killing or anything like that, but I can see how his anger and angst provide the raw materials to do the things he did. The Phantom has got to be one of the most haunted (no pun intended) characters in the history of filmography/theater.

The third is the lyrics. I'm just blown away by them. Charles Hart did most of the lyrics, but there was some collaboration on some songs. I'll be looking at two songs in particular.

Both the Phantom and Raoul do their best to woo Christine, and the girl has to decide between the two. Phantom woos her with his song "Music of the Night." I've included a few lines below, or you can click on the YouTube video if you have a few more minutes and want to listen to Gerard belt it out:

Softly, deftly music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it secretly possess you
Open up you mind let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night.

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation
let the dream begin let your darker side give in
to the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night

Then Christine gets wooed by Raoul with a song that's almost the polar opposite, "All I Ask of You." Patrick Wilson seriously has one of the best voices ever. I like to close my eyes and imagine Jesus singing this song to me. Try it yourself:

No more talk of darkness,
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I'm here, nothing can harm you
my words will warm and calm you
Let me be your freedom,
let daylight dry your tears.
I'm here with you, beside you,
to guard you and to guide you...

Let me be your shelter
let me be your light
You're safe, No one will find you
your fears are far behind you...

So Christine's got the most basic choice of all mankind before her: good or evil. That's what it boils down to. Bad guy Phantom loves her, all right, but his love is warped, as he doesn't understand love and never had any kind of example. Raoul, though, growing up with a family in tact (he says his parents have always been great supporters of the arts, so he is the patron of the opera house now...and I draw from that the conclusion that Raoul likely emulated his parents in more ways that just that) understands what love and true sacrifice is. He makes a counteroffer Christine just can't refuse.

I really like to think about the Phantom and Raoul as human representations of much larger scale. The devil is out there, wooing people with his night music, while Jesus sings a song of light and love. It's truly beautiful.

[You can stop reading here...otherwise, you're going to get a therapist run-down of her favorite scene and how it relates to the goals of writing.]

The scene of Raoul singing to Christine "All I Ask of You" is my most favorite in the Hollywood movie made in 2004. The reason for this isn't just the love song and great singing. It's because its the first time the viewer actually feels pity for the Phantom's plight. Now, up until then, he wasn't really this awful villain just yet, but seeing Raoul and Christine together gives him the push over the edge of insanity a bit. But it's played so well that the viewer actually still feels sorry for him, understanding how his broken heart could lead him to such terrible actions. We've all been there. We can pity him because we have empathy with him.

And this is exactly what we need to do as writers with our villains, as well! Make the reader really feel for them by giving them an incredibly horrible backstory or some other weak point that made them like who they are today.

At the climax of the film, when the Phantom descends into his cave with Christine and Raoul comes after her, the Phantom makes Christine make a choice, once he has Raoul trapped:

Start a new life with me
Buy his freedom with your love!

Refuse me, and you send your lover to his death!

This is the choice,

This is the point of no return!

He uses the very choice she had made earlier (to love Raoul) to bring her to this huge decision. This is MAJOR!! Our heroines (and heros) have to face this black moment, as well. It's made more psychologically powerful when it plays on the emotions of the one making the life-altering decision. She's seriously in a no-win situation, but when she thinks of the type of life the Phantom has had:

Pitiful creature of darkness,
What kind of life have you known?

God give me courage to show you,

You are not alone...

She is playing on the emotions of the villain! Ah-ha! This is brilliant. Striking him at his Achilles' heel. It's like she creates her own Option C, blindsiding the Phantom (with two major knee-buckling kisses) and getting what she wants in the process (Raoul). Although the kisses horrify Raoul as he stands there and watches, Christine actually does it all for him (and the romantic in me likes to think she did it to show the Phantom compassion despite all the things he had done).

This is just poetic and beautiful and perfect to me. of my favorite movies ever. And hopefully we can all learn a bit from it when we're creating our characters.

Q4U (if you actually made it down this far): What is one of your favorite movies from which you took away writing nuggets for your WIPs?

Wordle: signature


Ralene said...

I am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings trilogy. First, let me say, I have never read the books. I tried several times over the years, but have yet to make it more than a few pages into the first book. Ack!

That being said, I found the movies inspiring. We have a cast of characters that is so brilliant. I just watched the trilogy over the last couple of nights and was actually going to blog about this myselt. Frodo's inner struggle is fascinating for a main character. And his journey doesn't end in the way many stories do. Beyond that, the stories have so many layers that each depend on each other as singuarly they would not succeed. Right down to the woman and the hobbit riding with the warriors in the big battle in the third movie. Had she not disobeyed her uncle, they would not have destoryed the leader of the wraiths that "no man could destroy". I could go on and on, but that would likely bore the rest of the readers. lol...

JStantonChandler said...

Oh there are so many films that inspire me, so many great stories that push me and prod me and have forced me to be a better person and writer.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is definitely one of them. So many heroes; so many chances to fail and win. I grew up on the original Star Wars trilogy and I always pitied Darth Vader. You just always knew there was a deeper reason for his evil but, in the end, his true heart came out.

I have not seen the Phantom film yet, but I'm a huge fan of the opera. I would go everytime it was in town if I could! The Phantom blows me away with his raw talent and his hunger for love. Though his views of love and humanity are warped, I can't help but wish Christine had chosen him over Raoul! Perhaps I'm a bit warped myself :)

Happy weekend!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

Jen - I totally know what you're talking about, wishing Christine had picked him. I mean, i think about how different things could have been! he taught her to sing...they could have been unstoppable. but in the end, she picked the good guy, guess we can't fault her too much for that.

Jody Hedlund said...

I find inspiration in so many movies I watch, especially when they move me to tears. I like to try to understand the passion and depth and then replicate that!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, you're right! It IS such a beautiful story--and obviously follows such a classic plotline, too.
Since I write lighthearted, I tend to look at romantic comedies for little writing nuggets. :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Jeannie!

I LOVE this movie! It has so many incredible themes. Everytime I watch the movie (or listen to the play), I'm struck by the raw desire in the Phantom to be loved. It might be twisted and misguided, but it's authentic and so powerful.

Have a great long weekend! Hope it's a lot of fun!

T. Anne said...

I'm not big on movies, but we're big Phantom fans here! I loved the musical, saw the movie as well. And you're right, we can def. learn from the villan here. Have you read the Phantom of Manhattan? It's the sequel to the Phantom (more like fan fiction that got published) It's wonderful I highly recommend it!

Liberty Speidel said...

I'm a huge movie fan, probably even moreso than a bibliophile. So, I get inspiration from a lot of movies. My favorite is 'The Empire Strikes Back', which is kind of odd since it's a movie with no real beginning and no real end. But, there's so much to learn about the characters in that movie. (I just used Han Solo to illustrate some of this on my own blog.)

I love 'Phantom' too, but I haven't watched it in a while. However, I love the parallels you drew between the Christ and Satan to Raoul and the Phantom. I'd not realized it before, but you're completely right. :)

Jessica said...

Man, I've never seen this. My sister once brought it over and we started it but I couldn't finish because life (aka hubby) intruded. LOL
It sounds wonderful. I already want her with the phantom, but I like how you said his love is warped. That's good to remember.

Hmmm, well, recently that movie with Sandra Bullock gave me some good writing fodder. Just studying how they took such a standard storyline and made it unique and special.
I love Last of the Mohicans myself. *happy sigh*

Cindy said...

Jeannie, amazing post! I had the opportunity to go see the musical earlier this year and it really blew me away. While The Phantom of the Opera itself is an enigmatic, haunting and unusual story, I couldn't help but be impressed at the talent that went into it. I think it inspired me to be more passionate with my own writing and really let it shine through in my words.

I love how you make the comparisons between good and evil. So true. Thanks for an interesting post.

FictionGroupie said...

I love Phantom. :) My current WIP is about a rockstar. A movie didn't inspire me, but going to a concert did. It's fun to know that any little thing can set off a whole story idea.

Keli Gwyn said...

My DD and I love to watch this version of The Phantom of the Opera. Gerard Butler has taken heat for his singing ability, but oh, can he move. He spent a year studying for the part, and he does a stunning job, imho, as does Patrick Wilson in his role. I feel for the Phantom and wish he could have gotten his HEA.

The Fashion Queen is totally into musicals, so I've enjoyed watching many with her. They are inspiring. Btw, she actually read The Phantom of the Opera and tells me his name is Erik.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I am addicted to Phantom of the Opera. I've seen the original with Lon Chaney, been to the live performance three times, seen the movie twice and listen to the two CD music a lot. Think I know all the words to all the music by heart!

My next favorite movie is Gone With the Wind.

Love your review!

Warren Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comments to the post I wrote for Ana's blog yesterday.

Katie Ganshert said...

I've never seen Phantom of the Opera...isn't that ridiculous?

Hmmm....movies that have inspired my muse? Recently, He's Just Not that Into You. I don't know just got my cogs turning.

Tabitha Bird said...

I'm a massive fan of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I don't know what I took away from them though as far as my writing is concerned. Maybe just that I love an epic adventure with life and death struggles?

Great post.

Tara said...

I love Phantom. I was blessed to see it performed in England--love it. I have so many movies I love, but musicals in the background help me to write.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I've never seen this. It looks like a must see though. Thanks for sharing.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Oh, and for a newer movie that might help other romance writer's muse, check out The Proposal. That one got me motivated again.

Alexandra said...

Wow! Thanks SO MUCH for sending me this link!!!!!! This was absolutely fantastic. POTO is my very favorite musical (although I like the stage version more than the film ;-)) and your review was absolutely right on the money(except the Gerard Butler part...sorry, like I said I'm a Michael Crawford phangirl). What a great illustration, and I loved the comparison between Music of the Night and All I Ask of You...totally put into words what I couldn't quite put a finger on. Thanks so much, this helps a TON for my character!!!