Aria, a string of selections from 10 operas illustrated by 10 directors, is a film that could not have happened without the advent of music videos.
Producer Don Boyd, who orchestrated the project, instructed the directors not to depict what was happening to the characters in the operas but to create something new out of the emotion and content expressed in the music. The arias were the starting point.
Result is both exhilaratingly successful and distractingly fragmented. Individual segments are stunning but they come in such speedy succession that overall it is not a fully satisfying film experience.
Selections also represent a variety of filmmaking styles from Bruce Beresford’s rather pedestrian working of a love theme from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt to Ken Russell’s characteristically excessive treatment of an idea distilled from Puccini’s Turandot.
Structurally, the most ambitious of the selections is Jean-Luc Godard’s working of Lully’s Armide which he transposes to a body building gym where two naked women try to attract the attention of the men.
The most striking clash of images is achieved by Franc Roddam who moves Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to Las Vegas. As the lush strains of the music blare, the neon sea of the casinos has never looked more strange.