Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

Shortly before Christmas, my husband and I were in the mood to watch a musical, so we chose The Phantom of the Opera, the 2004 movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical.  I've loved the story since I saw a made-for-TV version as a kid, but I especially loved the 2004 musical.  It easily ranks as one of my all-time favorite movies. So of course, after seeing it again I was inspired to reread the book.

I read it for the first time in 2004, after the movie came out.  I was surprised at how different it was, yet how much the same -- many elements of the musical's story come directly from the book, yet in my opinion it lacks much of the passion and empathy of the movie versions I've seen.

Although Leroux does intend for the reader to empathize with the phantom -- named Erik, in the book -- at the same time, he makes him into a rather detestable character, which I never liked.  The movie version I saw as a kid made the phantom much more human and sympathetic, and he never actively tries to hurt or punish Christine, as he does in both the musical and the book.  My other complaint with the book is that Raoul's character is rather detestable, too -- he is petulant and actually kind of creepy, and I have a hard time understanding Christine's interest in him.  (I actually don't like his character much in the musical version, either, as he is rather condescending to Christine, but he is even worse in the book.)  And Christine's character leaves a lot to be desired, as well -- instead of being a strong heroine, she is weak and fearful.

All of this being said, the book is entertaining and explains the phantom's story a little better than the musical.  Other things are explained, too, such as the reason for having to keep "your hand at the level of your eyes" (so that the phantom can't slip his noose around your neck and strangle you -- your hand will be in the way).  If you love the musical, I think the book is a good companion to the movie, but any time I see or read either it makes me want to rewrite Erik's and Christine's story!

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