The story of the Phantom has been with us for a century, and yet really, none of us would know it but for the inspired tune from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical. It is the story of a genius and a murderer, of love and hate, of an Opera house and the people within. This is truly a brilliant story, and I feel that the music is astounding and beautiful, much like the story itself.
The story is very slightly different to the stage version, but it still manages to capture the essence of it. This is probably because Andrew Lloyd Webber produces the film. Christine Daae is only a chorus-girl when she is asked to sing in the place of La Carlotta, the Opera's primadonna. But she has a secret; ever since she came to live at the Opera, a strange angel of music has been teaching her to sing. Little does she know that her angel is really the terrifying Opera Ghost, who is best known for causing accidents with his magical lassoo. The Opera has just changed hands, and the new patron, Raoul de Chagny, could not be more thrilled when he sees Christine singing - they had been childhood sweethearts. Later Raoul goes to Christine, but she is spirited away by the Phantom. Although this seems to be a love story of sorts, beware, the Phantom isn't a lovesick puppy.
This 2004 film version stars the likes of Gerard Butler, Miranda Richardson and Minnie Driver. But it is the beautiful and enchantingly naive performance of the virtually unknown Emmy Rossum (who you may also have seen in The Day After Tomorrow and Poseidon) that makes this film something wonderful. All the actors sing the parts in this film, and Emmy is exceptional, having been singing and acting from an early age. Her voice is fantastic, and the acting is exactly what you would expect of a leading lady and she was only 16 at the time. However, the actor who really brings the Phantom to life is of course Gerard Butler, whose portrayal of emotion - from anger to utter heartbreak - leaves your emotions as contorted as the Phantom's face.
What I really like about this movie is the plot. It doesn't twist, and it doesn't have to. It is obvious and yet the emotion of the story and the truth behind what is happening to the characters is what drives you to keep watching. All the viewer really wants is an answer to their questions. You even start to care for this shady Phantom, even after you know he has killed people. I shed a tear at the thought of his heart breaking, I was so involved. And Gerard Butler does play it with some poise and a lot of emotion. Enough to make me tear up a second time at the thought of his possible demise, I have to admit.
The scenery is spectacular. At the beginning, when the black and white film turns to the past and you see the pure opulence of the theatre, it is really something to behold. The golden statues, the stairs to stage area; the grandeur of the place is wonderful. The other scenes of the dressing rooms and the secret passageways are equally as amazing. I especially liked the Phantom's lair, with it's luxurious flowers and furniture, as well as the snowy scenes in the graveyard and the rooftop, where the main character was cleverly wearing red as a dramatic contrast as well as a symbolic reference to danger and love.
One drawback to the film is a technical one; an error for the people editing the film, rather than the actors or the costume designers (nice work, by the way, the costumes were amazing too). It went from almost unheard whispers to beltingly loud music quite suddenly, which meant that I had to keep turning it up and down in turn to keep from having my eardrums blasted by that ominous organ.
All in all I would like to give this film a 9.5 out of 10, because even when I couldn't hear the words, I knew the story. This is a romance enthusiasts dream, right from beginning to end.