… And Scene blogathon: The descent to the lair in The Phantom of the Opera

For the “… And Scene!” blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid.

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For the “… And Scene!” blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid.

The famous unmasking scene is the one great scene in the unevenly directed The Phantom of the Opera. But my favorite of them is definitely the moment the Phantom puts Christine into a trance and leads her down into his underground domain.

It really has a sense of entering another world, like Hades taking Persephone into the Underworld. We get to take in Ben Carre’s fabulous sets: the stone walls, the walkways going down and down until they reach the lake which leads to the Phantom’s well-furnished apartment. The image of the Phantom rowing a gondola as Christine sits in the back with her scarf trailing in the water is iconic, an image appropriated (and mostly connected with) the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical adaptation.

The whole sequence is filmed in long and medium shot. Hack director Rupert Julian does this a lot during some of the bigger scenes, thus diminishing their effectiveness. The most infamous example of this tendency is the bit where Raoul and Ledoux are trapped in the torture chamber; Julian shoots the scene like it’s still 1908, keeping the actors away from the camera and having them stumble about like drunkards in the hopes the audience will believe it’s delirium. But in the descent to the lair sequence, this distancing works well, enhancing the sense of mystery.

A great deal of my enjoyment also comes from Carl Davis’ score. The use of strings creates a haunting, half-awake quality, as though you were napping one moment and caught up in some strange fantasy the next.

The Phantom of the Opera may be uneven, but it’s moments like this which have ensured its classic status.

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3 thoughts on “… And Scene blogathon: The descent to the lair in The Phantom of the Opera

  1. Pingback: The “…And Scene!” Blogathon Is Here! Time to Relive Some Favorite Movie Moments | Sister Celluloid

  2. What a fabulous description of a gorgeous scene! And I love your description of Carl Davis’s score… he really captures that quality of the scene being both dreamlike and startling. Thank you so much for joining the blogathon with this wonderful article!!

    Liked by 1 person

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