Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Originally a nine-hour British miniseries, this film on the last four decades in the life of Richard Wagner may have taken its long-winded cue from the lengthy operas of the famous 19th-century German composer and musical theorist -- the Ring des Nibelungen is 14-15 hours in itself, divided into four separate operas. This biographical film begins when Wagner is first recognized for his work, yet in that same year, 1848, he was forced out of his homeland for his radical politics (he supported the unification of separate kingdoms under one Germany) and settled in Zurich for awhile. Focusing on character traits that are well-known and would not endear him to anyone, the film details his bigotry (a confirmed anti-Semitic), his insensitivity, and his obsession with money -- he went after the bottom line even if it meant losing friendships or ruining his marriage. Although Wagner is known for his music theory and the contribution he made to opera during his lifetime, very little attention is given to his actual works in this film. Venerable British thespians (Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Joan Plowright, and Richard Burton as Wagner) light up the cast but not always with the same brightness. In the final analysis, the slow-paced story is simply too long in the telling, and even the visually sumptuous costumes and production design cannot make up for a slow script, uneven acting, and problems in direction. The film version runs 300 minutes.
classical-music, composer, conductor [music], death, flashback, Germany, legend [famous person], life, music, opera, performer, symphony, wife