"Callas Forever" is a fictional story of the real opera diva Maria Callas at the end of her life. In this account Callas’ good friend and former manager Larry Kelly, deftly played by Jeremy Irons, is a rock music manager on tour in Paris. The stunning Fanny Ardent plays Maria Callas who lives a reclusive existence in Paris. She is dejected; her voice has declined with age, and she feels that if she does not perform she has nothing. Larry gets the idea to help Maria come back to life by convincing her to perform in a movie of "Carmen" with her dubbed young voice -- and her journey starts there.
"Callas Forever" is somewhat predictable, but it is an engaging and believable story with some intriguing twists and turns. Its strength is in its sublime character development which rings true and is psychologically correct – a rare and special treat. Director Franco Zeffirelli captures nuances of Callas’ narcissistic character alongside her brilliance. He doesn’t get into details of the diva’s poor and difficult beginnings or her deeply conflicted relationship with her mother, but the effect of those events is all there in Ardent’s Callas, nevertheless. Callas’ tumultuous and dependent relationships with men – especially Aristotle Onassis – are alluded to.
The movie "Carmen" within the movie serves to advance our understanding of Callas’ experiences and character. Ardent’s performance coupled with Callas’ singing is so passionate that it brings tears to your eyes. The performances put you in the frame of mind to take in the story.
Callas' awe-inspiring voice reveals an inner light, the gift which she generously gave to her audiences (– perhaps at the expense of her childhood and. early social development). Her brilliant gift belies the image of the defeated fragile recluse we see when Callas is not performing. "Callas Forever" is an extraordinary psychological profile of a narcissistic character whose gift touched audiences and who relied on her fans' adulation to shore up her sense of self and ward off a sense of emptiness.
In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for "Movie Magazine."
Special thanks to opera critic Mr. Jason Victor Serinus for sharing his vast knowledge about Maria Callas and providing the background information for this review.
© 2005 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 11/04
2002, 111 minutes, English, French and Italian