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The Tales of Hoffmann
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from 1,827 votes
Release: 26 November 1951 (UK) /

The Tales of Hoffmann

Genre: Fantasy, Music, Musical
Director: Michael Powell,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: This a film version of the opera "The Tales of Hoffmann", however it is NOT just a film of a staged performance. 'Michael Powell' & Emeric Pressburger (and the rest of "The Archers") work their usual magic here. The opera dramatises the three great romances in the life of the poet-hero presented in a series of flashbacks. Hoffmann's tales depict the struggle between human love and the artist's dedication to his work. Hoffmann loses each of the women he loves but gains instead poetic inspiration -- the ability to transform painful experiences into art. Written by Steve Crook <>

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Critic Reviews

A magnificent spectacle. A truly filmic version of a classic opera. Often mentioned as a favourite movie and constant inspiration for young Martin Scorsese.

With the audacity that Powell & Pressburger were famous for we are presented with a wonderful performance of a truly "composed" film. All the soundtrack was recorded by Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and then the filming was all done on the open stage (it didn't need a sound stage) at Shepperton.

With choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton and performances by ballet luminaries such as Moira Shearer, Ludmilla Tch&eacute;rina, Robert Helpmann, L&eacute;onide Massine and Sir Frederick Ashton himself. Assisted by opera stars such as Robert Rounseville and Anne Ayars and the Sadler's Wells Chorus. All this backed by the designs of Hein Heckroth and the experienced team of technicians that worked regularly under the banner of The Archers leads to a treat to behold.

The plot - from a 1951 (year of release) programme.

The Prologue : The Opera House in Nurnberg (N&uuml;emburg). Hoffmann sits in the auditorium watching a performance of the Dragonfly ballet. He is in love with Stella, the prima ballerina, who seems the embodiment of all his past loves. In the interval Hoffmann goes to Luther's Tavern. Here young students greet him. He sings them the ballad of Kleinzack. But the sight of Stella has reopened old wounds. "Would YOU hear the three tales of my folly of love?" lie asks. The students gather round the punch bowl, with Hoffmann's companion, Nicklaus, who has accompanied him throughout his adventures, and his enemy Lindorf.

The Tale Of Olympia : As an inexperienced student in Paris, Hoffmann was tricked by two puppet-makers, Spalanzani and Coppelius, into falling in love with their latest creation, the doll Olympia. Spalanzani passes Olympia off as his daughter and hopes by this means to get some money from Hoffmann. At a ball given for her, Olympia sings the "Doll Song" and dances a ballet. Hoffmann is entranced. Only when Spalanzani and Coppelius fall out, and Coppelius destroys the doll in revenge does Hoffmann realise how he was fooled.

The Tale Of Giulietta : As a young man of the world, he was enslaved by a beautiful Venetian courtesan, Giulietta. Acting under the influence of the magician Dapertutto, Giulietta captures his reflection and so gains possession of his soul. Hoffmann kills her former lover Schlemil in a duel, to get the key to her room. He hurries back to her, but finds she has left with Dapertutto. Mad with rage, he flings the key against her mirror. It cracks, and his reflection reappears. He has regained his soul.

The Tale Of Antonia : As a mature artist and poet, Hoffmann falls in love with Antonia. Her mother, a singer, has already died of consumption (Tuberculosis). Crespel, her father, through grief at his wife's death, is now the half-mad wreck of a formerly great conductor. Crespel keeps his daughter in seclusion on an island in the Greek Archipelago and forbids her to aggravate her own weakness by singing. He also forbids his deaf servant Franz to admit either Hoffmann or the quack Dr. Miracle who killed his wife. Franz misunderstands, and in turn shows them in. Hoffmann realises Antonia is ill, and she promises him not to sing again. Dr. Miracle persuades her it is her mother's wish she should disobey. She does so, and dies in his arms.

The Epilogue : On the stage of the Opera House, it is the finale of the Stella Ballet. In the tavern Hoffmann's audience is spellbound. Hoffmann's tales are told and with the telling Hoffmann finds his true destiny as a poet. Stella appears at the door of the tavern and looks down at him. But Lindorf, who has also understood the meaning of the Tales goes to meet her and together they pass out into the town.

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