Friday, March 14, 2008

Betrayal

One cannot talk about Christine without talking about her act of betrayal towards the Phantom. It is a pivotal point in the story, both on the rooftop and then climaxing at the Point of No Return. The first betrayal unrecognized by her on the rooftop, the second an act she consciously chooses to do. Why did she betray the Phantom? We hear Erik’s words to her in the lair asking why. Christine is silent, however, and has no words to defend her actions. Christine, why are you so silent? Why did you do it?

On the rooftop when Christine drops the rose and chooses a life with Raoul, we see she is drawn to him for protection and out of fear for the Phantom. Unknowingly to her, Erik is in the shadows watching her choices, and afterwards declares this is how she repays him for giving her her voice, by betraying and denying him. I doubt at that moment Christine was consciously thinking of betrayal, but it was an unconscious move away from the Phantom’s influence towards Raoul. The thorn of rejection pierces Erik’s heart.

The second betrayal, of course, is a more conscious decision Christine makes. We understand from the lyrics sung in the chapel with Raoul that she is twisted in being asked to betray her Angel of Music. She pleads with him not to make her go through with it. She asks herself how can she betray the one who inspired her voice, recognizing the debt she owes him. Yet in the next breath she reminds herself how she abhors the Phantom’s character, because he kills without thought. She believes betrayal is the only way to purchase her freedom, but on the other hand wishes she could refuse. Christine is conflicted and torn, and feels forced to play out the Phantom’s Opera. She also recognizes that even if she betrays him, he will always be there singing in her head and never free. Raoul places the entire burden of their freedom together on her shoulders.

At the Point of No Return, there is a subtle betrayal also played out between Christine and Raoul. There is no doubt that Christine had an attraction to the Phantom. I came across a fascinating statement that Patrick Wilson said in an interview. “I spent three months shooting the love story with Emmy, just hearing about this other guy {the Phantom}. When I finally saw them together {at the Point of No Return} and felt the passion they had for each other, it was heartbreaking.” Christine, I believe, does struggle for a brief moment at the Point of No Return. It’s obvious as we watch her lying against his chest caressed in his arms and lost in his embrace. When he asks her the ultimate question to spend the rest of her life with him, she is awakened to a reality she’s not willing to accept. Her answer is an act of betrayal.

Christine knew what was behind the mask, and she also knew the violent reaction it would elicit from Erik when she exposed him. Christine did the unthinkable in order to buy her freedom. That was the price she was willing to pay. However, in striping the Phantom’s mask, she strips him of his last ounce of dignity and exposes that most vulnerable and painful part of his humanity to his enemies. That is the definition of betrayal. The pain Erik endures is unimaginable, as it has come from the woman he loves. It cuts him deeply and only further leads him down the path of madness to take what he so desperately wants, Christine, leaving a path of destruction behind him.

What about Raoul? He played his own part in Christine’s betrayal in forcing her to perform the Phantom’s Opera. As I keep pondering his act of buying the Phantom’s music box at auction and taking it to her grave, I keep asking myself for what purpose? At auction he pays 30 francs for the music box, which is the age old symbol of the price of betrayal - 30 pieces of silver.

So what can we learn from this horrid act of betrayal against Erik? As much as we may like Christine and wish she would be with him, the story is what it is. We are not given an alternative ending on the CD, though many would prefer to see Erik happy with Christine. We imagine alternative endings to satisfy how we would like to have seen the act played out. We write sequels to quench our thirst and satisfy our need for different outcomes than what the original author has left us to ponder. Why? Because the reality of the sad ending may be too painful for us to accept. Perhaps because we equate those sad endings to our own lives.

However, in life, we do not have that option to do rewrites. As humans, we must live with the consequences of our actions, whether good or bad. All our acts play out. We cannot go back and rewrite chapters or provide for ourselves alternative endings to painful moments. Each chapter in our lives is an unchangeable story penned in eternal ink. As we make our choices, we must remember that our acts not only play out in our own lives, but they inherently touch and effect those close to us -- just as the actions of Christine, Erik, and Raoul all touched each other.

So why do you think Christine betrayed the Phantom? Do you believe she did it to please Raoul? Did she do it because she wanted to be free of the Phantom? Do you think she regretted her actions afterward when she realized the pain she had caused him? No doubt Erik’s voice still sang songs in her head throughout her life and Raoul knew it. Why else would he have purchased the music box to place at her grave? A music box he thought would still be playing after all of them were dead.

Your Obedient Servant,
The Phantom's Student

Order Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera Here


3 comments:

AllYoUNeEdiSlOvE said...

Well, I, as you obviously have, have become absolutely consumed by the movie. I myself am obsessed, I just can not get over how truly sad it is.
What you say is absolutely true, and my particular opinion of Christine is not a good one.
I understand her feeling frightened by the Phantom, because he was so apparantly obsessed, but I see her not as pure and innocent, but as a snake.
She listened to him and was his friend when he taught her how to sing, and she was granted the lead role after Carlotta left.
Then, she even went to the Phantom when they first met face to face, and you can definately tell she was attracted to him during the hall/horse/boat scene and Music of the Night.
Then she "wakes up", and her curiousity got the better of her, and she looked behind the mask. I believe it was her shallowness. She was so attracted to him until his mask was taken off. It was as if then she was done with him. Granted he did act violently, but who wouldnt? Would you want yourself looking like that to the one you love at first? No. Maybe in time he would have revealed himself, but she took it upon herself to rip off something so delicate.
Anyways, the Phantom furthermore goes on to further her career, perhaps not in the best way, but it is done so.
After the man is killed, Christine takes Raoul and runs to the rooftop. I understand this fear, I get it. The phantom is obviously not in the right state of mind, but she says that he has "eyes that burn". In my opinion, Christine is saying this to Raoul, because his eyes burn with passion, not hate, and she does not want Raoul to think illegitimately of her because she was his "prisioner". I think Christine played the role of a victim, making the Phantom out to be this monster so that Raoul would be there for her, because he innocently trusts and loves her.

At the end of the movie, again Christine betrays the phantom by ripping off his mask. He was confessing his love to her, and she rips it off, obviously as you said afraid that Raoul would see the passion between them, but you can truly feel the phantoms heartbreak.

Then, the Phantom gives her a ring of love.
Then, the Phantom, obviously crazed, creates a "point of no return" for her. So, what does she do? In my opinion she plays to be "innocent" truly sympathizing with him. I think she is faking it to save Raoul. In the end she doesnt thank the phantom, or comfort him in anyway. She just give back the ring, and is off singing with Raoul, while the phantom is left alone once more, in the darkness of hell.

Christine used the Phantom, plain and simple.

melsyoungestsis said...

Interesting, but I think that Christine did as much for the Phantom as she could.

She was in love with Raoul and wanted to be with him (In my opinion that's crazy, but that's just me. I like the Phantom) so she sacrificed her life to go live with the Phantom so that her true love could go free, but just by chance this effected the Phantom so much that he saw what true love really was and he let them go. He knew she'd never be happy with him.

And she felt so sorry that she gave him the ring back. Although this kind of makes it sadder, she looks upon him with compassion, which makes her a first.

When she and Raoul sail off, she even looks back at Erik in compassion. She feels sorry for him, but can't do any more.

Patrick O said...

I believe that it wasn't necessarily a betrayal when Christine took the Phantom's mask off after The Point of No Return. I actually think that she was trying to save the Phantom. In the stage version the Phantom (in exception to Ramin Karmiloo) hands Christine his ring and she puts it on more willingly. While she does this she is often crying or very upset. I believe that she didn't want them to kill the Phantom and the only reason why she took off his mask was because that was the only way she could get him to leave the stage. The Phantom knew that they were planning on killing him and I think that he was ready to die if Christine didn't love him. Christine must have seen the policemen lining up backstage to catch the Phantom, so she did what was necessary. What she did got him off the stage and she saved the Phantom. She may have loved Raoul and wanted to spend her life with him, but she clearly cared for the Phantom greatly. So I do not think it was betrayal at all.