articles / Film/TV

An Intimate Portrait of a Captivating Diva: Film Review by Kenneth Turan

Maria Callas | Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Her fans, and they are many, call her “La Divina,” the divine one, and Maria By Callas shows the reasons why.

Closer to a deity than a singer to her devotees, Maria Callas was an extraordinary opera star who brought dramatic intensity and emotional intelligence to her roles, not to mention an off-stage life that included a much-publicized love affair with one of the world’s wealthiest men, fellow Greek Aristotle Onassis.

Director Tom Volf initially planned to do a conventional documentary but decided it would be more intimate and revealing to do a film on Callas almost entirely in her own words, using performance footage and TV interviews, as well as letters and unpublished memoirs, which are movingly read by contemporary opera star Joyce di Donato.

The film expertly presents the emotional essence of this performer, leaving you both shaken and stirred by the extent of her gifts and the way they connected to both audiences and to her tumultuous life. She would have happily given it all up to have children and a domestic existence, Callas informed a dubious David Frost, adding “but destiny is destiny and there is no way out.” She also told Frost, “there are two people in me actually; there is Maria but also Callas. I have to live up to all of myself.”

Kenneth Turan is the film critic of the Los Angeles Times and KUSC’s Arts Alive. He is also the author of, most recently, “Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film” from PublicAffairs Books. This post was adapted from Mr. Turan’s Los Angeles Times review published November 1, 2018.

Written by:
Kenneth Turan
Kenneth Turan
Published on 04.01.2019

MORE LIKE THIS

Behind Willem Dafoe’s Transformation into Vincent Van Gogh

Behind Willem Dafoe’s Transformation into Vincent Van Gogh

Willem Dafoe stars as Vincent Van Gogh in the new film "At Eternity’s Gate", directed by Julian Schnabel. The article discusses Dafoe's role, his learning to paint, and his affinity for outcast characters.

Film/TV
04/01/2019
Theremin, Harp, and Shaky Strings: The Golden Globe Winning Music of “First Man”

Theremin, Harp, and Shaky Strings: The Golden Globe Winning Music of “First Man”

"Justin Hurwitz won the 2019 Golden Globe for Best Original Score for 'First Man'. The article discusses his collaboration with director Damien Chazelle and their journey from jazz to space."

Film/TV
04/01/2019
A Conversation with the Composer Behind Downton Abbey’s Unforgettable Theme

A Conversation with the Composer Behind Downton Abbey’s Unforgettable Theme

Explore the success of Downton Abbey: The Movie, set in 1927 England, overlooked in Oscar hype. Includes an interview with film score composer, John Van Driel.

Film/TV
01/14/2020
“Rocketman” Composer Matthew Margeson on the Yellow Brick Road

“Rocketman” Composer Matthew Margeson on the Yellow Brick Road

Matthew Margeson faced the challenge of scoring the Elton John film, "Rocketman". The film features new arrangements of John's hits, performed by Taron Egerton and the cast.

Film/TV
06/12/2019
‘A Day of Silents’ at the Castro Theatre

‘A Day of Silents’ at the Castro Theatre

San Francisco Silent Film Festival's 'A Day of Silents' features Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Alice Guy Blaché, and Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera at Castro Theatre.

Film/TV
12/17/2019
Greta Gerwig on Finding the Echoes in “Little Women”

Greta Gerwig on Finding the Echoes in “Little Women”

"Greta Gerwig, acclaimed actress turned director, discusses her Oscar-nominated film 'Little Women'. The film is up for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 92nd Academy Awards."

Film/TV
01/21/2020