Tony Palmer's Film About the Wagner Family
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This is a film about a family, a family which has ruled the theatre in Bayreuth in southern Germany for the last 140 years, some say still the greatest threatre in the world. There's no doubt that Richard Wagner who built it was the most influential composer in the whole of the 19th Century. But his family has survived a mixture of lies, deception, fraud and dangerous political alliances. The story of this family is a soap opera that makes Coronation Street look like Noddy-in-Toyland. It's a family - in many ways the Royal family of Germany - at war with itself.
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I thought I'd find out.
This is a fairly enjoyable, gossipy little film.
There are a few production issues, of which more later, but they don't detract from the entertainment value of watching the latter-day Wagners sniping at each other. Gottfried was in particularly good voice: he pioneered trolling long before the concept was popularized on the net. The internecine squabbling and daggers-drawn hatred is quite amazing, particularly the venom allegedly displayed by the late Wolfgang towards his brother's family, and his children by his first marriage. Katharina somehow manages to give a bad impression, even without the help of her family. If anything, the notorious Winifred, with her friend Adolf, come across as mild by comparison.
To give a very loose translation of the title of this review 'After Richard, they were a shower' (with the possible exception of Cosima).
If you are a Wagnerite, I suspect this film will irritate and entertain. At least that's how it affected me.
English voice-over rather than subtitles. In a film where most interviews were in German, this became annoying.
Constant switching between aspect ratios. Archive material 4:3, modern footage 16:9. There's nothing unusual about this, but the resultant DVD track didn't standardize, so my old Wega couldn't cope.
If you have read and enjoyed 'The Wagner Clan', you'll enjoy this film.
If you're a Wagnerite, you'll enjoy the shots of Wahnfried and the Festspielhaus.