Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Phantom of the Opera III

The actor Gerard Butler as he did NOT appear in the movie. He can squeeze my neck anytime!

Continued: Please read Part I and Part II first. Thanks.
Of course, as in all good melodramas, the phantom runs off with the girl, but she's rescued by her true love.

Only there’s a twist in this particular ending. The phantom, after kidnapping her, gives Christine the choice of letting her “lover” live (there was only implied sexual attraction in this movie, no actual sex. As Jack Sparrow said in Dead Man’s Chest, “There will be no “knowing” here.) If she stays with the Phantom, he will not kill her true love Raoul. (If she leaves with Raoul, the Phantom will kill Raoul anyway and maybe her, too. DUH.) I will have to give the heroine credit for having a great deal of intelligence in reasoning this out. In so many movies the characters make the mistake of following their hearts when they know it will lead to their own destruction. People aren’t really that stupid. (Are they?)

Christine, loving Raoul, wants to save him. At the same time, she’s loved the Phantom for years since she was a young orphan. This love isn’t easily tossed away. Her compassion, too, comes into play. She chooses to stay with the Phantom, not only as “a sacrifice” to save Raoul, but she realizes that the Phantom didn’t really intend to be “evil.” He's behaved abominably because he's in dire need of love and approval.

She sings to him, “Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known? God give me courage to show you, you are not alone.” This indicates that Christine’s love is a spiritual love. I believe, against her own better judgment, she had to admit she really did love him even if it is only as one human being loves another with human compassion.

She approaches the fearsome Phantom with his disfigured face just as he becomes exhausted with his own rage and confused desperation. And she kisses him! And he lets her. And he kisses her back.

(The lucky girl has an on-screen kiss with Gerard Butler.)

This kiss is what I didn’t understand in the stage play. In the movie the purpose is obvious. She chooses to show this “evil” man with a “suffering inner child,” compassion and unconditional love.

This is the Phantom’s undoing. You can read it on his face. You can see the battle that’s going on inside of him. The veil is lifted from his dark, twisted understanding…he feels unconditional love coming from Christine—something he has never felt in his entire life not even from himself or from God (whom he’s rejected, not vice versa, I am sure.) And he suddenly realizes that he could have had Christine’s love if he had not been controlling, domineering and murderous. His attitude of jealousy and possessiveness has driven her away! He realizes, too late, he’s ruined his own chances with his own behavior.

Not only that, but his heart is opened at that moment and he feels "real" love—unselfish, true, caring, deep inner love that Christine has shown to him. He can no longer keep her captive at the mercy of his possessive love. He truly loves her unselfishly when he allows her to leave and frees her to go with the man that's best for her, Raoul.

Of course, the Phantom (who never was given name in the movie to make him less than human?) is still caught in habitual self-hatred. With a sudden awareness that he's to blame for all his own misery in life, that it's not his deformity that caused it entirely, and the fact that with his talents and intelligence, he could have overcome his appearance by merely making different choices in life, he smashes the mirrors in horror. (Too bad there weren't 12-step programs back in those days to help set oneself aright, huh? Thank God there is now.)

Can you imagine the towering regret he must have felt when he realized that Christine’s love had been within his reach, and, with his own selfish, hateful ways he prevented himself from having that? It’s heartbreaking. (Reminder to myself: take Kleenexes to the theater on Oct. 28.)

So you see, the millions of women that fell in-love with the Phantom, perhaps were and are the women who have fallen for the “bad boy” in their lives—you know “the suffering child-man" who is his own worst enemy. They're the neediest, most pathetic of men that could be heros if only they would realize it, damn it! We women who have fallen in love with the wrong man, perhaps married him (and reproduced male children with him, for godsake; forgive me, world) and suffered for it, do understand the love for this Phantom character.

We have, like the Phantom, regretted causing our own suffering in life with our own delusions, i.e., thinking that the love of “a good woman” can change a defective man into what he ought to be and what he could be. (Forgetting that what he is and what he chose to be are out of our control and out of his own control, too.)

Most of us realize these things in life too late to fix the past, hopefully not preventing us from going on and having a better future, if we live long enough to become wise. (I know I have and I’m married to a wonderful, regular, ordinary, nice guy, now.)

The ring in the movie symbolizes this revolutionary story resolution perfectly. Raoul gave the ring to Christine as a symbol of their commitment. She's reluctant to wear it on her finger for everyone to see, because she’s afraid to let anyone know, especially the Phantom. Basically no one wants that happiness for her—marriage and family, except Raoul--and she wants to protect her dream. The Phantom wants to own her--body and soul--and the opera house wants to own her career and so keep her single and singing.

The Phantom appears at the masquerade ball where everyone else is attempting to hide behind masks just as he has done his whole life. There he snatches the ring from her. Only he can’t take away the love she has for Raoul—the ring is only a symbol of it. A hollow victory for him.

Later, he gives Christine the very same ring, and insists she wear it as a token of his ownership and love. She puts it on when she acquiesces to his demand she stay with him in the underground lair.

When he releases her, she returns it to him. The Phantom gave it as a show of power over her and as a blow against Raoul’s love for her, but when she gave it back she returns his love. This can be taken two ways—she hands his love back to him (refusing it) or she gives it as a symbol of her continuing love for him.

At the same time, when she gives the ring back, she’s accepting the Phantom's "gift." This is the ultimate gift her can give besides desiring, admiring and loving her--that is: loving her enough to let her go and be happy with Raoul.

At the very end of the movie, the ring turns up on Christine’s grave years and years later. On the same day that the Viscount puts the Phantom's monkey-music-box on her grave (symbolic of his surrender to Christine's love for the Phantom,) the Phantom puts the ring on the grave with his rose. (Red roses symbolize never-ending love.) With this, he shows his surrender to Christine's love for Raoul. Therefore, it's "a gentlemen’s agreement," after the fact, that they both loved her and admitted that she did, indeed, love both of them. (Again Susan Kaye's novel Phantom develops this concept a good deal more.

I have probably put this crudely, but the screenplay was magnificent with symbolism. It has given me much to marvel at over the past year or more.

When a group of individuals band their creative talents and powers into a collaboration and work of art such as this, the work becomes an entity of its own. It has a sum total much, much greater than the individual parts and even the group effort or final product. I believe this story is a genuine modern myth that will become part of our culture for years and years to come.

I would like to see it shown in movie theaters on a regular basis someday, just as The Rocky Horror Picture Show has become a cult movie showing, appearing in theaters for audience participation on Halloween all over the country. The fans of Phantom would LOVE to come to the movies at midnight, dressed as their favorite character and have a chance to sing and celebrate this exceptional phenomenon known as The Phantom of the Opera.

Thank you, all, for reading me. Best Wishes.

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