The Tales of Hoffmann

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


This adaptation of the poet Hoffmann's adventures is a dramatically experimental, visual masterpiece. Dismissed at one time as a "spectacular failure," it is yet another of Powell's films which was decidedly ahead of its time. Each of the three main stories has a dominant color: yellow for the tale of Olympia, pink for Giulietta's story, and blue for Antonia's. The often entirely artificial settings are photographed as if they are real, and the film makes full use of cinematic effects to recreate the fantastic world of Hoffmann. Offenbach's baroque opera contributed the music and enabled Powell to achieve, as writer Alan Stanbrook describes it, the "grafting of the stylization of opera onto that strain in the cinema that can most happily accommodate it—the one that runs through Melies and Robert Wiene to James Whale, Val Lewton and others."

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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