DR. COPPELIUS (1966)
(a.k.a. DR.?? COPPELIUS!!! /
EL FANTASTICO MUNDO DEL DOCTOR COPPELIUS)
Article #1488 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-11-2005
Posting Date: 9-8-2005
Directed by Ted Kneeland
Featuring Walter Slezak, Claudia Corday, Caj Selling
Two potential lovers get embroiled in the life of Dr. Coppelius, a scientist / inventor who specializes in life-size mechanical dolls.
After two encounters with Opera so far, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I stumbled across a Ballet. Now, if you had asked me, I would have predicted that Ballet would have been an even more alien form to me than Opera; the thought of trying to follow a story expressed entirely in dance would have made me feel ill at ease. However, I found this to be much easier to follow than either THE MEDIUM or THE TALES OF HOFFMANN. I think the reason is that the burden of translation isn’t as great; instead of needing to sort out what is being sung (as I need to do in operas), all I really have to do is make good use of the visual cues that are supplied me here, and this movie is quite generous with them. The opening credits provide mini-biographies of each character so that you know the role they play in the story, and it does a fine job of clarifying certain subtleties, such as the fact that when Brigitta is dancing with a broom, she is actually engaged in an imaginary dance with the man she loves, Dr. Coppelius. I’m also amazed at the breadth of emotion that can be conveyed in dance. In particular, I was amazed at how well dance can be used to convey humor; there are many comic moments that work beautifully here. I never really thought of Walter Slezak as a dancer, and his dancing here is quite minimal. However, he came from a musical family; he was the son of a star of the Metropolitan Opera and himself went on to sing there as well. The fantastic aspects here are prominent; Dr. Coppelius is something of an alchemist, which puts him in a category somewhere between science fiction and fantasy, and his laboratory wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie. All in all, I found this one fun and accessible, though I did need a little break now and then during the longer dance segments. And there’s one thing I do know; I like the music in ballets a lot more than I like the music in operas.