The Movie and The Musical: Early on, it's mentioned that Christine is such a fantastic singer because of the secret lessons she's been getting from her "Angel of Music", who of course turns out to be the Phantom. So someone with an opera-quality voice (Emmy Rossum has some experience with The Met under her belt) was taught by someone with arock sensibility. How?
Christine must have some natural talent anyway, and if The Phantom knows the singing techniques he could probably teach the without actually being able to perform them himself. Also, since Erik is meant to be the greatest tenor in the world, it's not a huge stretch to imagine that he could use opera-quality for teaching and rock sensibility for his own personal music. This Troper can sing, and although she is by no means opera-quality, she is capable of switching between a more classical sound to more rocky depending on the music style and key, and she's a contralto with an average range at best.
Emmy Rossum really isn't "opera-quality" either. Her voice is good enough if you need a Liesl for your high school's production of The Sound of Music, but her voice doesn't measure up to even the "legit music theater" standards of most stage Christines, let alone the rigorous demands of opera.
The idea behind casting Rossum may have been that she was the right age to play Christine, who is supposed to be a young chorus girl. Unfortunately, opera singers don't develop their full, strongest range until they're about 30 (or around there). They decided to go with the then-very-young Emmy Rossum. I believe she was 17 when cast, and her sound is probably about as good as any 17-year-old could be at singing songs written for Sarah Freakin' Brightman.
But that's just the point: Rossum was being presented (both as Christine in the film and in the promotional materials thereof) as a vocal prodigy, when her voice really isn't any better than any moderately talented high school choir member. Even if you want to avoid Dawson Casting, you could go to any really good college performing arts program in the country and find a few 20-year-old music/theater majors who could have done a much better job.
Perhaps it's just me, but I never understood all the criticism. I thought Rossum did a wonderful job and was actually better than Brightman.
This Troper never saw any evidence that Rossum OR Brightman could act. This is incredibly frustrating, as so many of the West End/Broadway Christines manage to be both incredibly talented vocally and also fantastic actresses.
Although Emmy doesn't have as much operatic talent, I found her to be much more suited for the movie. Stage Christines need to do stage acting, and project their voice, even with a microphone. Emmy had some of the best, most tragic expressions, you could feel her confused pain. She was a very realistic teenager placed in an awful situation. Some of the parts she actually sings normal ("Why can't the past just die?" from Wishing is so heartbreaking, yet most stage Christines just sing it operatically instead of on the verge of tears) I think all the Christines have their place.
As a fan of actual opera, it really, really bugs me that Carlotta's singing voice is much better than Christine's (mostly because Minnie Driver used a dub and Rossum didn't).
Then again, it does add a new outlook to the play; Christine isn't actually a better singer, she's just being promoted so the managers won't get killed.
YMMV as to what constitutes "better". Does Carlotta's voice show more talent? Yes, but is it more pleasant to listen to? The film's cut to the cleaning staff putting cotton in their ears mirrors what much of the audience felt. Carlotta's voice is talented sure, but it's over the top and unpleasant to listen to. Christine's had a much more simplistic beauty to it that actually allowed her to emote.
Carlotta may be over-the-top and bombastic, but she still would have been more impressive onstage than Christine, whose voice has no support behind it and wouldn't have carried beyond the first row or two of the house (remember, this is the 19th century and any means of amplification beyond natural acoustics is non-existent; opera singers stereotypically had big voices because they needed to be big in order to fill the hall). Most stage Christines have expressive, pure voices while still retaining the strength to make them convincing as opera divas; Rossum just doesn't measure up by comparison.
I thought that was actually the point. Carlotta IS a better singer, but Christine has a better stage presence, a less harsh voice, and more emotion behind her voice.
It Just Bugs Me!, but (at least in the movie) the meaning behind "keep your hand at the level of your eye" was never made clear. Any explanations?
It has to do with strangulation being the Phantom's preferred method of killing. If you hold your hand up at around face level, you theoretically have a chance to catch the noose before it can tighten around your neck. (The stage version of the musical makes this a little clearer, but not much—it's more succinctly explained in the novel.)
Also, if your hand is at the level of your eyes and someone chucks a lasso or a garotte over your head, they probably can't pull it tight enough quickly enough to kill you - your arm is in the way and the noose won't go tight. It might hurt like hell but you'd have time to at least try and fight back.
Thanks, that doesn't bug me anymore.
We should also mention that this is actually MUCH clearer in the book, which is what they are referencing here but aren't clarifying very well.
It is worth mentioning that there is a gesture associated with soldiers that could be described similarly - the salute. The gesture was originally intended to both show that you did not have a weapon in your hand, and to lift the visor on your armor, leaving you both vulnerable and recognizable. The point of it was to show that you did not mean any harm (or that you were a foolish judge of character and should be stabbed in the face). Of course, almost certainly not what they were going for here, but now you know.
Amusingly, in the book the gesture is the exact opposite of this. The Persian gives Raoul a pistol to hold at the level of his eye at all times. When he complains that his arm is getting tired, the Persian reveals that holding the pistol is less important than just keeping his hand high for the reasons explained above. So apart from the practical defense against strangulation, the effect is supposed to be threatening.
So...is it ever explained, in any adaption, how Erik is supposed to be able perform near-magical feats like summoning a noose or making Carlotta mute?
The original novel does the best job of explaining his tricks; the movies do so to varying degree and the stage version of the musical prefers to maintain an air of mystery. The short answer is that it's a combination of ventriloquism, slight-of-hand/stage illusion, access to the background workings of the Opera (originally Erik had helped construct the building, meaning he could put in his own secret passages, trap doors etc. off hours), and sheer Magnificent Bastardry.
In the musical at least, it's deliberately ambiguous as to whether he is a real phantom who can summon fire, throw his voice, vanish, and who lives behind a mirror, or a man going through life with great skills and some tricks who was once trapped in a cage as any other man might be. The question is designed to haunt the audience after the show.
A number of things from the latest film version bug me:
Why does Erik have a secret passage behind the mirror in Carlotta's dressing room?
It's supposed to be the leading soprano's dressing room. Carlotta just happens to always be the leading soprano, so made the dressing room her's.
According to this film's version of Erik's backstory, he's been living in the opera house since he was, oh, let's say about eleven or twelve, and has known nothing else of life, and before that he presumably spent most of his childhood locked in a cage. This begs the question of how exactly he learns how to competently sword fight, drive a carriage, become an architect and composer and all the other impressive stuff he does. And even if he learned from watching people sword fight on stage and handle horses in the stables, it still doesn't explain how he was able to drive Christine to the specific cemetery where her father's grave is without getting lost.
The Madame says it outright: He's a genius. He can probably work out the mechanics of it on his own from the visuals he gets. He's had at the very least twenty years to do this, given how old Meg and the Madame appear to be. Also, whose to say he doesn't sneak out at night? He loves Christine, no doubt he'd figure out where her father's grave was.
I'm really glad they included a reference to the actual book and all, but...why is the room of mirrors situated right under the main staircase in the foyer?
Convenience, I'd assume. it'd be much easier to get someone in there with reason than, say, backstage. If they aren't supposed to be there, it'd be hard to get them back there to kill them. It's just convenient there.
Why didn't the people building the sets of Don Juan notice that they were building a trap door right over where a great big hole in the stage was going to be, and get just a little suspicious?
The owners of the theater are trying to trap the Phantom into thinking he's winning this particular meeting... so, they probably got the warning and ignored it intentionally.
It's actually fairly common for stages to have trapdoors. Even Shakespearian theaters had trapdoors. It's likely that the trap door was already there and the Phantom just utilized it.
This is the biggie, containing four complaints and verging into wall banger territory. The setting is thus: when Raoul falls into the water trap, he activates a grille that starts moving downwards, obviously intended to trap him underwater and drown.
1, Raoul fell vertically from the top of the chamber into the water, and the grille also moves down vertically, so to actually get to the water Raoul would have had to fall through the grille.
2, The grille moves downwards relatively slowly, giving Raoul plenty of time to not only dive under the water and fiddle for about ten seconds with a rusty wheel, but also swim back up to the surface to check how far away the grille is. Instead of, you know, swimming over to the exit from the word go. Admittedly Raoul HAD just fallen several feet into what was probably ice cold water and was pretty flustered, so we can let this one slide a little.
3, There's enough of a gap between the grille and the ladder that Raoul could have squeezed his way up and out.
4, Okay. Let's be perfectly serious here. Leaving aside how Raoul could possibly know if turning that wheel would do him any good, what kind of deadly and ingenious trap has an OFF SWITCH not only situated inside the aforementioned trap, but within easy reach? ——
Okay, in order:
He has passages everywhere. It helps him keep up the "I'm a ghost" illusion of his.
The phantom would have a lot of down time in those years, so he could've learned it from books, and studied the layout of the cemetery. Perhaps there's only one cemetery in town?
See point one. It's the most obvious trapdoor, so it'd be good to have something to throw off those who follow.
Perhaps the phantom added that element of the set himself, when everyone else where off the job for a moment.
1: Raoul doesn't fall through the grille; he falls through a spring-loaded trap door as he's going down the stairs. The grate is something else entirely. 2: Well, if you set a death trap on the way to your lair, wouldn't you want a fail safe for yourself? 3: I don't think so... 4: See point two: it's a failsafe for the phantom. The grille dropping onto Raoul would've had to drop from the ceiling of the passageway. No big deal there...
About part 1... That still doesn't seem to satisfy the question of how Raoul somehow manages to fall "through" the grille. He clearly falls straight down into the water... So either the grille has a person-sized hole in it to let the victim fall through (which also provides an easy escape for said victim) or it's Hollywood Science.
Making Carlotta mute: he fiddled with her throat-spray a bit so that it would put the mockers on her vocal chords.
How badly disfigured is the Phantom supposed to be?
In the latest version of the play, he looks not bad at all aside from a slight miscoloration and scars on the left side of his face that could easily be chalked up to a freak accident involving sharp implements of death. Instead the movie acts like it's Body Horror, having him be in a freak show in his youth and everyone's all "TO ARMS, GENTS! TO ARMS!!" at the climax. WTF?
You see, that's why the movie (and LND, for another) suck so hard. This troper prefers the mental image of Leroux's Godawful skull-faced guy, but the more common stage makeup is pretty gruesome.
In the movie version of the musical, Miranda Richardson gives Madame Giri a French accent, while everyone else uses an English or American. Her choice is baffling to me because it takes place in France, and most of the characters are Parisian natives which makes her accent unneccesary.
The book describes Erik as pale and corpse-like with no nose or lips ("what passes for my mouth," he says), so I can only imagine he looks like Voldemort. In any case, he was born disfigured, not scarred in some accident or attack involving acid (what genius mistook The Joker's Back Story for Erik's?), and should look genuinely deformed, hideous, and horrifying, not tragically-romantically-scarred a la Prince Zuko.
The acid appeared in the Claude Rains version. Here, Erique Claudin is at a music publisher's, about to sell a piece he's been conducting, and he hears someone playing his music Franz Liszt is appraising it. Enraged, Erique kills the publisher, but his secretary throws engraving acid into Erique's face.
He's frequently described as skeletal in the early chapters, so the opera workers joke that he should have a "death's head" (i.e. a skull) to go with it. Later on, Christine unmasks Erik, and low and behold, that's exactly what his whole head looks like. When she touches his hand, she says that it felt chilly and dead, and later on, Erik proclaims that he is "made of death from head to toe." He also sleeps in a coffin, and at the party dresses as Poe's Red Death. The image Leroux is trying to evoke is that of a walking corpse, like a zombie. It's isn't just Erik's face that's supposed to be disfigured; Leroux dealt with ugly characters in other books. Erik is supposed to really appear to be a monster.
It's worth noting that the stage makeup was initially the result of Pragmatic Adaptation; it was the best way they could find to convey the Phantom's hideousness (even to the people in the balcony cheap seats) without compromising the performer's articulation or vocal timbre (Michael Crawford once said in an interview that something closer to the Chaney makeup had been tested, but it resulted in him sounding like Marlon Brando in The Godfather). As noted above, the result (kind of a cross between Two-Face and post-Mustafar Anakin Skywalker) is still appropriately gruesome—it wasn't until the film started pushing the Hotter and Sexier envelope that Adaptational Attractiveness really set in.
After Raoul's and Philippe's argument in Chapter 14 on the morning Christine and Raoul plan to elope, the narrator says that Philippe was the one who shared the details of this argument with the examining magistrate. When would Philippe have had the time to do that? He was killed that same evening, long before any authorities above Mifroid were brought into the case; after Christine's abduction, he went immediately searching for his brother, not to give any testimony to any magistrate, before ending up dead on the shore of the lake. Is this a mistranslation? It would seem to make more sense if a servant overheard the argument and gave the details later, just like one of them apparently leaked the story of Raoul's elopement to the paper that morning.
The timeline of the Persian's account makes no sense: He goes to the lake to confront Erik about the Falling Chandelier of Doom and vows never to go near the lake again due to the danger of Erik's "siren trick." Some time after this, he sees Erik with the unconscious Christine and the stolen César in the Communards Passage, gets knocked unconscious, and wakes up deciding to risk the dangers of the lake to find out what happened to Christine... but this incident happened the same night that Erik dropped the chandelier, according to Christine's earlier account to Raoul. Christine went to her dressing room and was taken through the mirror to begin her two-week long disappearance almost immediately after the chandelier fell, giving the Persian no time to confront Erik about the chandelier and spot Erik with his new captive later that same evening. Furthermore, the Persian waits for 24 hours before Erik comes out and tells him that he will see Christine go to the masquerade ball tomorrow night and then return of her own free will... but that ball took place two weeks after he kidnapped her, not two days!
Well, the Persian is an old man on his deathbed when Leroux gets his side of the story; it's entirely possible that the chronology of events was a bit muddled in his head. Whether or not this makes the Persian an Unreliable Narrator is another debate entirely.
In The Musical, this Troper never understood why Christine thought it would a be good idea to unmask The Phantom on stage in front of hundreds of spectators after singing a passionate/sexy love song with him.
Some actresses play that Christine is genuinely in love with The Phantom. In this case, why would she do this when she knew the humiliation it would cause him? For the ones who don't, wouldn't it make more sense to alert the soldiers/Raoul to the presence of The Phantom by just yelling out rather than doing something which she knows will cause his Unstoppable Rage?
As with a lot of the motivations in the musical, this one depends on the actors, but explanations I've seen or heard theorized include:
The Phantom was using his Compelling Voice to persuade Christine to marry him, and she unmasks him as a way of breaking the spell.
Same as above, but Christine only thinks the Phantom is manipulating her when it's really More than Mind Control.
The two characters lean in to kiss but one or both chickens out and pulls away, resulting in an accidental unmasking.
She was scared and confused and didn't know who to call on. She acted on impulse to stop him speaking, but was not strong enough to push him away or something else physical so she unmasked him instead.
Did Christine ever consider just asking Erik why he wore the mask?
In fact she does bring it up in the novel (actually, she pretty much tells him to take the thing off if he has any pretensions of behaving honorably towards her), but he refuses to discuss it. So although the unmasking is still an impulsive gesture (as it is in many adaptations), it's made pretty clear that Erik has no intentions of being forthcoming on the subject.
If he would answer that question with no resistance, it wouldn't be such an important secret that he has to wear the mask in the first place. When someone doesn't want you to see their face, that implies you're not to know why, and someone as Genre Savvy in magical folklore as Christine would probably assume this.
Does Christine actually think that her 'Angel of Music' is her father?
The musical seems pretty unclear on this point. Christine says her father said she'd be protected by an Angel of Music rather than actually being the Angel himself, but then Meg asks do you believe the spirit of your father is coaching you?. Later in the graveyard, Christine says (sings) ''Angel OR father, friend OR Phantom" so she seems to know the difference, but then The Phantom says "too long you've wandered in winter, far from my fathering gaze" so presumably he thinks she thinks he's her dad. Then Raoul comes in and says, "This man, this THING is not your father." Has ALW said whether Christine actually thinks he's the spirit of her father at first, or is it meant to be up to the audience to decide?
In the ALW musical, the "Angel or father friend or phantom" line implies that Christine honestly doesn't seem to know what to think once he appears in the graveyard, but she tells either Meg or Raoul earlier (I can't remember which) that "I have been visited by the Angel of Music," not by her father's spirit. Some movies unquestionably make her think the Phantom is her father. In the original novel, it is perfectly clear that Christine never thinks the Voice is her father but assumes that "the Voice" is the Angel of Music sent by her father (although his mentor relationship with her definitely has some fatherly vibes to it). She doesn't even equate the Voice with the rumored Phantom until after her first kidnapping, where she's at first distraught to find that both the Angel of Music and the Phantom are just a crazy guy in a mask. Christine also only describes her invisible mentor to Raoul and Mama Valerius as "the Angel of Music" — not her father.
Also, it was only in the movie the line was "my fathering gaze." In the music, the line was "my far reaching gaze."
There's something of a clarification to be made here, which is made clearer in the book. The phantom tells Christine to go to the graveyard where he will prove that he is the angel her father has sent to her by effectively summoning the spirit of her father, signified by playing the Ressurection of Lazarus on the violin buried in the coffin with him. Therefore Raoul's comment is that the spirit playing the violin is not her father, but is instead the phantom attempting to play a trick on her. (Incidentally, the book places this at the beginning, before the Chandelier incident.) Christine's reply
Why did the Phantom need 20.000 francs per month? He has no interaction with people, at least it seems so. Even when he uses the money to buy food in a cloak or something, wouldn´t it be easier when he would get the food from the opera directly?
Personally, I saw this as him making a demand as a sort of insurance, asserting to the owners of the theater that he is who is in charge and that all of his demands, frivolous or not, must be met. He's screwing with them psychologically and physically, so why not financially as well? He's merely playing up his perceived Magnificent Bastardry only moreso by doing this.
Or, the short answer, because he can.
Long Term Motive: In the book, he doesn't actually like living underground and wants to live in a normal house and walk down the street like a normal person; in other words, he wants a normal lifestyle that would, logically, require money. Money would be the key to making his life as normal as possible given his appearance. As David Xanatos said, "Pay a man enough, and he'll walk barefoot into Hell."
Short Term Motive: He builds Christine a Gilded Cage and runs into the Persian while going shopping for her. Elaborate Underground Base-dweller or not, he apparently has an expensive lifestyle.
He actually explicitly goes shopping in the book, and the Persian meets him when he's returning with his purchases. He uses a false nose and moustache, along with hat and scarf to hide his worst deformations in public.
When the Phantom is making Christine choose between marrying him or killing Raoul, why doesn't she realise that she can marry the Phantom, kill him/leave him and go off and elope with Raoul? Of course, I give her the benefit of the doubt of her panicking and not thinking about that, but if thinking about it, even in a panic, it wouldn't take long for one to consider that option.
2 reasons, one, what if she actually loves the phantom, and 2, what if he would kill Raoul anyways?
It doesn't even have to be love! Killing someone is hard enough period, and no matter what version Christine always feels at least compassion for him.
The Phantom is obviously insane. I don't know if it's a very good idea to marry a man who is totally crazy, physically stronger than you, a Manipulative Bastard, in possession of secret passageways everywhere, and perfectly willing to strangle people with a lasso for no reason at all, and then try to leave him.
Also, in the book Christine is in her current predicament because Erik found out she was planning on running away with Raoul. She probably figured it wasn't worth the risk of pissing him off a second time (especially since, as previously noted, her chances of successfully out-maneuvering Erik weren't all that good to begin with).
Not to mention that the suggested idea isn't that obvious when you're panicking, especially not for a young woman in the late 19th century who's been mostly trained in dancing and singing, not "How to outmanoeuvre and kill a chessmaster without getting caught".
Why not just tie him up?
(Movie complaint—can't speak to the book or the stage version) In the graveyard, Raoul and Erik swordfight, and Raoul beats him. Instead of leaving him there so he could come back and take his revenge, why didn't they tie him up or otherwise restrain him, toss him in that wagon Christine came in, and take him to the authorities?
Raoul flew into the graveyard dressed like this◊... What would he use to tie the Phantom up?
His belt? The reins of his horse? Send Christine to find something (there's probably a church or groundskeeper's shed nearby) or someone to help?
"The world showed no compassion to me!" ... Or did it?
This is a minor complaint about the movie that I just realized. The Phantom claims that he received no compassion in his life because of his horrible disfiguration. However, the movie seems to display otherwise: the young Madame Giry certainly showed sympathy and compassion to the captive Erik, even to the point that she helped him escape the traveling fair. Am I just being extremely nit-picky about the lyrics, or could Madame Giry have taught him enough compassion to have avoided this whole threatening exchange?
Madame Giry probably did show him compassion, but after at least ten years of being shown nothing but hatred and disgust including from his own mother, as well as not being able to go out in public for fear of the exact same thing happening again, one person showing compassion really isn't enough. Erik is speaking about the world as a whole, as opposed to one specific individual.
This is one of the major reason why I can't stand the movie: the Phantom's problems aren't as bad as he makes them out to be. He spends all this time whining about his hideous face (which is basically a poster child for Informed Deformity) and how nobody's nice to him (despite Mme. Giry's aforementioned years of protection). It's really hard to sympathize with him when under those circumstances—he becomes less of a Tragic Monster and more of a sulky bully who needs to get over himself already.
Spending the first ten years of your life being treated like shit by your society because of something you can't help can be psychologically damaging. Sadly, in most cases, it takes a lot more than one nice person to help someone get over that kind of hatred and mistrust. I think it's safe to say we can treat the movie lightly, as in the book, he's supposed to look like a corpse, not a guy with acid burns on one side of his face.
The world as a whole saw him as disfigured, freakish, more monster than man. When Mme. Giry showed compassion in taking him into the theatre, (a) he was then out of the world at large (and now ruled rather than being thrown down), and (b) she was just one person.
This may only apply to one of the adaptations, I don't know, but... In the movie I saw, the owners didn't like Carlotta's voice or her personality. So why did they cast her when they had Christine as an alternative?
One of the things that gets lost in a lot of adaptations is that Carlotta isn't supposed to be a terrible singer—in the novel, she's the Technician in the Technician Versus Performer comparison with Christine. (This is why the "toad" incident was so shocking—Carlotta's voice just didn't give out on her like that.) In the musical, the managers like her because she's famous and will sell more tickets than the unknown Christine—unfortunately, the film version messes up this concept by showing adoring throngs clamoring for Christine at the stage door.
This is La Carlotta we're talking about. They can't not cast her!
In the titular song, Christine sings, "Those who have seen your face/ draw back in fear." She obviously knows that the phantom is disfigured, so why is she so paralyzed with fear when she removes the mask?
Well, put it this way. People about to see the body of a murder victim might well be told that the wounds are bad and that it will be horribly shocking and gory to look at. In reality, that's not going to stop them from being shocked and distressed when they actually do see it. Knowing something and seeing it face to face (literally, in this case!) are two different things. Also, perhaps she underestimated just how bad the Phantom's face would be. Hell, perhaps she still suspected that Erik was her father?
Think about how the Phantom reacts when she removes the mask — screaming, shouting at her, threats and insults, scaring her away... he has a very violent reaction. She was likely wholly unprepared for all of that. I think that she's less afraid of his face and more terrified by his response, which of course he may translate into fear of his face. If he had been calmer and had talked with her about it before her curiosity overcame her, things could have gone very differently.
Or, you could take the more supernatural explanation. What Christine is stating is not actually what she knows, but what the Phantom has put in her mind. He knows that everyone who sees his face "draw back in fear", and through some sort of hypnotic/telepathic connection with Christine, he makes her sing that. It's also useful to note that during "I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It", Christine doesn't seem to recall much of the journey down there, further supporting the idea that she was in a hypnotic state.
In the book, when she recalls that journey while talking with Raoul, she theorizes she must have been drugged; whatever she was singing, she wasn't entirely in her right mind or under her own control.