Aria (film)

Aria is a 1987 British anthology film produced by Don Boyd that consists of ten short films by ten different directors, each showing the director's choice of visual accompaniment to one or more operatic arias. There is little or no dialogue from the actors, with most words coming from the libretto of the operas in Italian, French, or German.

Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced byDon Boyd
Written by
  • Robert Altman
  • Bruce Beresford
  • Don Boyd
  • Bill Bryden
  • Louis de Cahusac
  • Derek Jarman
  • Philippe Quinault
  • Franc Roddam
  • Nicolas Roeg
  • Ken Russell
  • Charles Sturridge
  • Julien Temple
Music by
CinematographyGabriel Beristain
Caroline Champetier
Frederick Elmes
Christopher Hughes
Harvey Harrison
Pierre Mignot
Mike Southon
Dante Spinotti
Oliver Stapleton
Gale Tattersall
Edited byNeil Abrahamson
Robert Altman
Jennifer Augé
Marie-Thérèse Boiché
Michael Bradsell
Peter Cartwright
Angus Cook
Mike Cragg
Stephen P. Dunn
Rick Elgood
Tony Lawson
Matthew Longfellow
Paul Naisbitt
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • 15 September 1987 (1987-09-15)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,028,679

The film was entered into the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.[1]


The opening credits are set to the overture to Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata.

Un ballo in maschera

A fictionalised account of the visit by King Zog I of Albania to Vienna in 1931, to see a lover, when opponents tried to assassinate him on the steps of the opera house (in fact after leaving a performance of Pagliacci) but by shooting back he survived.

"La vergine degli angeli" from La forza del destino

Three children in London, devoted to a statue of the Virgin Mary, steal and set on fire a luxury car, which they later watch on the TV news.


In a gym, two young women working as cleaners are entranced by the muscles of the male bodybuilders, who maintain their concentration even when the women strip.


A bedroom farce set in the Madonna Inn at San Luis Obispo, in which a movie producer cheats on his wife with a pneumatic German starlet while unaware that his spouse is also there in the inn with a clandestine hunk of her own. The finale is a dance routine to La donna è mobile sung by an Elvis impersonator.

"Glück, das mir verblieb" from Die tote Stadt

In the seemingly dead city of Bruges in winter, footage of empty buildings in deserted streets is intercut with a duet of two lovers in an ornate bed chamber.

Abaris ou les Boréades

In the Théâtre Le Ranelagh in Paris in 1734, a preview of the opera is given to an audience of inmates from a mental asylum.

"Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde

Two young lovers drive down Fremont Street in Las Vegas at night and in a cheap hotel, after making love, slash their wrists in the bath.

"Nessun dorma" from Turandot

Unconscious after a car crash, a lovely young girl imagines her body is being adorned with diamonds and rubies in a tribal ritual, when in fact it is the preparations for surgery. After nearly dying on the operating table, she regains consciousness.

"Depuis le jour" from Louise

A veteran opera singer gives her final performance, intercut by home movies of her on holiday when young and in love.

"Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci

In an ornate opera house, empty except for a possibly imaginary young woman, an aging virtuoso mimes his aria to an old cylinder recording and dies.

The closing credits, after replaying a small excerpt of each of the ten operas, are again set to the overture to Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata, thus closing the cycle.


The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, won that year by Sous le soleil de Satan.

The American writer Leonard Maltin did not seem to appreciate the work: "Godawful collection of short films, each one supposedly inspired by an operatic aria. Precious few make sense, or even seem to match the music; some are downright embarrassing. Roddam's bittersweet Las Vegas fable (set to Tristan und Isolde), Beresford's sweet and simple rendering of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die tote Stadt are among the better segments—relatively speaking. A pitiful waste of talent."

Giving it three stars, Roger Ebert wrote: "I am not sure that any indispensable statement about opera has been made here, and purists will no doubt recoil at the irreverence of some of the images. But the film is fun almost as a satire of itself, as a project in which the tension between the directors and their material allows them to poke a little fun at their own styles and obsessions. You could almost call Aria the first MTV version of opera."[2]


  1. "Festival de Cannes: Aria". Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  • Guerand, Jean-Philippe. In: Première (France). (MG), June 1987, p. 17
  • Godard, Jean-Luc. "Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard", vol. 2, 1984–1998. Cahiers du cinéma, 1998, 2866421981
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