Few careers are as mesmerizing as that of the performer. Whether you’re an actor or singer (or in the film I’m about to discuss’s case, both), there is something positively entrancing about the thrill and rush and power that you can gain from standing in the center of the stage and having the whole world’s eyes on you. Perhaps that is why cinema has been obsessed with itself for so long. There are so many movies about stars and performers that this beautiful documentary about the people in the opera business who aren’t the stars but members of the chorus was so refreshing. You so rarely hear about the little man and his effect in the productions that we love. In the documentary In the Shadow of the Stars, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1991, you get an up close look at the lives of several different members of the chorus of the San Francisco Opera House.
Perhaps, it’s because I have a (slight) background in musical theater, but I found this documentary to be absolutely enthralling. To see people rehearsing and performing and going about even the other aspects of their lives, it brought me right back into the world of performing arts and immersed me in that sense of adrenaline and awe. The film is a combination of interviews with the members of the chorus interspersed with actual performances of their plays and also dress/ regular rehearsals. You become quite attached to the different people who are being interviewed and their stories and hopes and dreams and attachments. It’s a really human picture. One scene struck me as being particularly beautiful. A husband and wife who met each other through the opera sing a song together in their home. And, in any other circumstance, this could have been kitsch and maudlin, but in this film and with this couple, it was so sweet and sincere. It was just deeply touching.
I left the film with an immense desire to go out and watch as many operas as I could. Gosh, the operas showed had such beautiful music and such ornate stage direction and design. It was lovely. I also had a desire to start acting again but that has passed again already fortunately. If you were in theater ever or you simply just love the performing arts but never performed yourself, you need to watch this film. It’s that plain and simple. The only people I wouldn’t recommend it to are uncultured types with no interest in the higher arts. You really owe it to yourself to check this out.
Final Score: A-