Wagner & Me
First Run Features Reviewed for Shockya by Tami Smith (Guest Reviewer) Grade: B+. Director: Patrick McGrady Screenwriter: Patrick McGrady Cast: Stephen Fry, Eva Wagner-Pasquier, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 11/28/12 Opens: December 7, 2012
During the mid-point in Wagner & Me, a documentary narrated by Stephen Fry, the latter interviews Eva Wagner, the great-grand-daughter of Richard Wagner. Since the subject is “not willing” she sends Fry on his “merrily way” after a few minutes. Fry is not hurt, looks at the camera and whispers, with a smile: “Woo I touched a Wagner”.
This relaxed attitude is taken by Fry throughout this documentary though some of the subjects dealt with here are mighty serious. Fry identifies himself not only as a Wagner fanatic but also as Jewish, a fact that makes it difficult for him to decide whether to attend the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany. During an eighty-nine minutes’ duration he takes us through a voyage to places where Wagner spent important periods of his life, such as Zurich (twelve years in exile from Germany) and Bayreuth (twelve years in his opera house until his death).
Stephen Fry takes the issue of Wagner’s anti-Semitism head-on by going to Nuremberg, Germany where Nazi party rallies where held from 1933 through 1938 accompanied by Wagner’s music. For some extra points he shows us black and white photos of Adolph Hitler attending the Wagner festivals since 1923 accompanied by the joyous town people and a delighted Wagner’s daughter. In London he gets to meet Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a German born cellist, of a Jewish decent, who was a prisoner and a member of the Women’s Orchestra in Auschwitz, and survived by playing daily marches to prisoners and concerts to the SS during their R&R time. Mrs. Lasker answers Fry’s nagging question whether Wagner’s music was played in Auschwitz (no; it was impossible because of lack of large size orchestra.) At the end of their conversation Anita tells Stephen that he does not have to attend the festival, because if he likes Wagner’s music so much why not listen to it at home?
Well, why not? To answer this question we are made to understand the grandness and the complex textures of Wagner’s music and his contribution to the creation modern European music that did not exist in the 19th century!
This short 89 minutes documentary is filmed most eloquently by Jeremy Irving and Sergei Dubrovsky. Switzerland takes center stage for physical beauty, and if there was no such animal as “bad-rate-of-exchange” I would fly there tomorrow. Sound is done by Stephen Crawley and Andrei Nikolayev, both convey Wagner grandness to the max. Stephen Fry is a patient and comic narrator, able to walk us in small steps to the conclusion of this doc., under Patrick McGrady’s watchfull direction.
Viewers who are Wagner fanatics will flock to see this doc, while those unfamiliar with his work may get some valuable musical education.
Unrated. 89 minutes © 2012 by Tami Smith (Guest Reviewer)
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+