Parsifal (1982 film)

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Film poster
Directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
Written by Richard Wagner
Produced byAnnie Nap-Oleon
Starring Armin Jordan
CinematographyIgor Luther
Edited byJutta Brandstaedter
Marianne Fehrenberg
Distributed by Zoetrope Studios [1]
Release date
  • May 1982 (1982-05)
Running time
255 minutes
CountriesWest Germany
France [2]

Parsifal is a 1982 West German-French opera film directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, based on the opera of the same name by Richard Wagner. It was shown out of competition at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. [3]


The soundtrack is a complete performance of the opera, but the imagery used is a melange including medieval costume, puppetry, Nazi relics and a giant death mask of Wagner. The Grail itself is represented by Wagner's Bayreuth Theatre, and Parsifal's key transformation is portrayed with a change of actor to an androgynous but deliberately female-suggesting form in order to achieve a union of male and female at the conclusion of Act II.



Prior to making Parsifal, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg had made three films which bring up the subject of Richard Wagner: Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King from 1972, The Confessions of Winifred Wagner from 1975 and Hitler: A Film from Germany from 1977. The Confessions of Winifred Wagner had upset the descendants of Wagner, which had the effect that Syberberg was not allowed to use any existing recording of the opera for the soundtrack of Parsifal. A production was instead arranged specifically for the film, with Armin Jordan as conductor. The film was shot entirely in studio in 35 days, in Bavaria Atelier in Munich. The budget was just above three million Deutsche Mark. [4]


The New York Times' John Rockwell wrote: "Hans Jurgen Syberberg's film version of Richard Wagner's music drama, Parsifal, should enthrall both film lovers and Wagner fans. Mr. Syberberg's work represents not only the summation of his career thus far, but is as gripping, strange and, in the end, devotionally faithful a staging as any Wagner opera has received in our time." Rockwell continued: "Just why Mr. Syberberg's scenic innovations don't seem as disturbing as other modern directorial innovations - Patrice Chéreau's Bayreuth Ring, for instance - is hard to explain. ... [I]nstead of their shocking us away from the romantic spell of the music, they reinforce that spell. It's as if Wagner's hypnotic allure and Brecht's intellectualized alienation have been somehow mystically united." [5] Graham Bradshaw wrote in London Review of Books : "Using clever front projection techniques, [Syberberg] provides a rapid background commentary on the main dramatic action: this is sometimes contrived and disruptive, but more frequently suggests the reflexes and ricochets of a mind that is actively engaging with Parsifal." [6]

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  1. "American Zoetrope Filmography". Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  2. "Parsifal". (in German). Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Parsifal". Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  4. Müller, Ulrich (2002). "Blank, Syberberg, and the German Arthurian Tradition". In Harty, Kevin J. (ed.). Cinema Arthuriana: Twenty Essays. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 179–182. ISBN   0786413441.
  5. Rockwell, John (23 January 1983). "Hans Syberg's adaptation of 'Parsifal'". The New York Times . Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  6. Bradshaw, Graham (3 March 1983). "Graham Bradshaw writes about the interpretation of Wagner". London Review of Books . Retrieved 19 May 2015.