“All I want is freedom / A world with no more night / And you, always beside me / To hold me and to hide me / Then say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime / Let me lead you from your solitude / Say you need me with you / Here beside you / Anywhere you go, let me go too / Christine, that’s all I ask of you” – “All I Ask of You,” The Phantom of the Opera
I encountered The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Joel Schumacher’s* adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, out of nowhere a few years ago. While scrolling through Netflix after an early work day, I saw the stunning movie poster and realized I had no experience with the musical at all. I decided to watch it. With its hypnotizing storytelling and surreal musical numbers, Phantom has become one of my favorite horror-esque musicals of all time.
*director of the The Lost Boys (1987), fun fact
The story begins in a flashback to 1870 Paris, France. Rehearsal is underway at the Opera Populaire. New owners come to meet the company along with the opera’s new patron, Raoul (Patrick Wilson). Madame Giry (Miranda Richards), who helps run the opera, informs the owners of the “Opera Ghost” and his demands for accommodations and a salary. Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum) recognizes Raoul from years before and hopes he remembers her. She is a dancer in the chorus, but it is known among the company that she has been receiving secret singing lessons from an anonymous teacher. Prima donna Carlotta (Minnie Driver) storms out of the production after a curtain beam falls on her courtesy of the Phantom. When the new owners panic at the sudden loss of their star, Madame Giry encourages Christine to sing on the spot. Everyone is blown away by her talent, and she quickly rises to stardom in the company.
Following her debut performance and endless praise from her peers and admirers, Christine is visited at last by her mysterious teacher. He is the rumored Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler), a masked man who lives in the depths of the opera house and wreaks havoc when he does not get his way. He takes her to his underground lair, where he shares his intentions to make her an even better singer and join him in creating transcendent music. Christine ends up fainting and staying through the night. She wakes and finds the phantom once more. She attempts to remove his mask. He becomes furious, but he forgives her and allows her to return to the opera.
At this point, people have noticed that Christine is missing. Several notes from the Phantom have been sent to those in charge demanding that Christine be made the new lead in the opera. Madame Giry shares that Christine has returned. The managers defy the Phantom’s wishes and give the lead back to Carlotta instead. When his demands are ignored and Christine falls deeper in love with Raoul, the opera plunges into fear and despair as the Phantom’s urges become more deadly.
I chose this movie for Valentine’s Day not because it portrays a great love story, but because its setting, costumes, music, and performances emulate “romantic” ideals. What I love about Valentine’s Day is its over-the-top opulence and fantasy; that is exactly what we get with this adaptation of Phantom. If you watch any part of this movie, you see what I mean. It is a stunning viewing experience whether you show up for the horror or the romance. It is one of the most moving musicals I know, and it is also one of the darkest. Phantom proves in so many ways that beauty can live in horror, and horror can live in beauty.
Until next time,