The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera ★★★★★

Trapped between Apollo (Raoul) and Dionysus (The Phantom), the psychological warfare around Christine begins below the surface of Paris, within an allegorical unconscious, but floats out of the sewer grates like a fog lingers into reality. Symbols abound: the split black-white costume design brought to the sweeping Masquerade dance sequence is almost as physical as the sword fight that unfolds atop the frosted ground of Christine’s father’s crypt. As the virginal innocent, Christine is destined to be the object of desire of both order and chaos. Raoul rides the white horse and follows chivalric boundaries, like a knight. But the Phantom is alluring upon his black stallion, a brooding genius who skulks the shadows of the opera house, the dark triad incarnate. He grants the woman a voice, teaches her to sing, to not only feel beauty, but to share beauty’s ethereal vibration on stage for others. And yet, his darkness is consumptive, esoteric, and dangerous. Projections of Christine’s father’s dreams for her obscure the Phantom’s nature, which longs to be hidden behind a mask. He is, like Nietzsche, a man who on the surface wants to be misinterpreted. He uses this against her and, in return, she uncovers his wickedness not once, but twice — at first in private, then upon the stage. This is because Christine’s journey is inextricably linked to the Phantom’s own. As she strives to render the Phantom from Beast to Man, he must come to accept his deformities less as his persona and more as his self. The deformities are an emblem of the unpredictable cruelty of nature, with nature being an emblem of the chthonic feminine he longs to control from within the red light of the death of the father figure. Nature, however, is itself rooted in tragedy and what makes this the ultimate tragedy is Christine’s inability to synthesize the Apollonian and Dionysian. The only place the Phantom can have Christine is on stage, in an opera of his own making, a fiction inspired by resentment and rage. And the only place Christine can have the Phantom is in a kiss under the surface of the city, a kiss meant only to reveal himself to himself. Early in the film, the Phantom incapacitates Christine with an image of herself gowned in white, an Angel of Music enshrined within the bowels of Hell. Later, he faces his own reflection as he smashes the mirrors surrounding his lair, seeing himself for what he is, a broken echo of better men like Raoul. And yet, even the better man doesn’t get to keep Christine for long. Time captures us all and upon the grave of the benevolent woman lies the rose of darkness, the music of the night, and the gift of reconciliation brought forth by the light.

Brilliant movie. Reduces me every time. That said, the real reason this gets five stars is because it earns an extra half star with each gothic vampire cape wave from Gerard Butler — all ten of them.

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