This dilemma regularly arises when political factors intrude into aesthetic pleasures. Unfortunately, painters, musicians, filmmakers, and others admired for their art don't always hold enlightened views. For the introspective Fry, his being Jewish and having relatives killed in the Holocaust enormously complicates his conflict. Interrogating this friction head on, Fry travels to Wagner's legendary Bayreuth Theater in southern Germany to face his heart/head divide, which Fry addresses explicitly.
In the course of the documentary, Fry chronologically summarizes Wagner's life as a great dramatist and musical genius, including selections from Wagner's music to make his points. He visits significant places in Wagner's life--Lake Lucerne, the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Nuremberg, etc.--interviewing Wagner scholars and Wagner's great-granddaughter, among others. Beginning at and circling back to Bayreuth, Fry peeks behind the scenes to show the immense work required to mount the famous Ring cycle, culminating in the 2009 performance.
Fry movingly describes the thrill he feels at Bayreuth, but with a keen self-awareness he notes how this excitement might come across, "a bit pathetic," as he says. Above all, Fry tackles his heightened emotion and the psychological depth of Wagner's legacy, determined to decide if and how he can enjoy Wagner. An informative and affable guide, Fry's unselfconscious, direct address to the camera and his honesty about his feelings make "Wagner & Me" a thoughtful and thought-provoking experience on a heady topic.
"Wagner & Me" screens at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. through Wednesday, May 15th. For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.