Thrilling Opera: Conflicts of the Mind and the Media in Kasper Holten’s Juan

In: Music, Narrative and the Moving Image


The present paper takes a look at the relation between opera and film through the lens of Danish director Kasper Holten’s movie debut Juan (2010), a 90-minute screen adaptation of Don Giovanni. Trimming about half of Mozart and Da Ponte’s opera and presenting the libretto in an irreverently contemporary English translation, the film makes full use of the visual language and fast pace of the movie thriller. Yet at the same time, by having all the singers perform live on the set, it aspires to the condition of filmed live opera. Whether intentionally or not, however, it seems less to effect a smooth fusion of these two sets of media conventions than to underscore their incompatibility. The resulting conflict, I will argue, is mirrored by the film’s take on the protagonist, who fails miserably at living up to the Kierkegaardian ideal of unreflective vitality: instead, the media-specific techniques of cinematic narrative intervene, turning him into an introspective, self-conscious and deeply conflicted hero.

Music, Narrative and the Moving Image

Varieties of Plurimedial Interrelations



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