Childhood Friends: Raoul and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Written for the Valentine's Day Period Drama Blog Party hosted by Heidi at Along the Brandywine.

And many thanks to my blogging buddies who helped me choose my topic! As you can tell, PotO had the most votes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There has always been and will always be the age-old battle of the love triangle in The Phantom of the Opera.

Do we love the Phantom and Christine or Raoul and Christine? 

I was on the side of the Phantom and Christine for many, many years. Erik (the Phantom) is a pitiable character and there's something appealing about being worshipped. He's desperate for connection and relationship and we can all relate to that reality. 

But approaching relationships in such an obsessive way is dangerous. Especially when people start dying. Erik is a terrifying figure, lonely or not, and Christine is more afraid of him than in love with him. A relationship built on fear is bound to fail.

Somewhere along the way, my loyalty shifted to Raoul. 

Not every Raoul, mind you, but Patrick Wilson's Raoul possesses a tenderness that is sometimes lacking in the character. I don't know if it's simply because his costar, Emmy Rossum, was so young, or if that's the approach the director wanted, or if it was his own idea. But whatever the reason, it works.

Here is their rendition of All I Ask of You. It's sometimes easy to miss the importance of Christine's desire to not live in the night, and Raoul's desire to be light for her. It's a deeply moving moment in the film and any of the stage productions.

What it really comes down to is Christine's choice. One man is her choice and the other is not. Raoul could be the nicest man in the world, but if Christine had chosen Erik? It would have been her choice, foolish, but still, her choice and Raoul wouldn't have really had a right to interfere.

Christine's only hesitations to develop a relationship with Raoul openly are born out of fear. Fear that she would upset her Angel of Music, that he would turn against her, and even that he might hurt someone if she disobeyed him. Her requests to keep her engagement with Raoul a secret until the right time, even her reluctance to go with Raoul after the performance because she knows her Angel will visit, none of those moments speak of trust or respect to the Phantom, simply of fear of repercussion.

I adore their reunion scene (minus Raoul's not listening, but we'll get into that later). Christine is sitting at her dressing table, brow furrowed, afraid, and then Raoul comes and her smile lights up the room. The relief on her face when they embrace is palpable. It's beautiful, the banter, and the shared memories they possess from a sweeter, more innocent time.

As it stands, Raoul and Christine move from reunited childhood friends to an affianced couple super quickly. Raoul never gives the impression of being a playboy. He recognizes Christine from when they were children (I'm guessing an age gap of maybe 4 years). He remembers Little Lotte and when he renews their acquaintance, he's reminded of all the reasons he liked Christine to begin with. He's not wooing a theatrical ingenue. He's wooing the girl he grew up with.

The downside to Raoul is that he doesn't listen. He doesn't listen when he wants to take Christine out for dinner after her first performance and she tells him it will anger the Angel of Music. And he doesn't really listen when they're trying to coerce her into performing in Don Juan Triumphant in order to trap the Phantom and she's completely terrified and begs him not to put her through this. Unfortunately, this means he's a Victorian man and Victorian men rarely listened to the feminine concerns or worries or reluctances of their women. 

Does this make Raoul any less in my estimation? Maybe a little bit, but his ultimate nobility makes up for the lacking, or what we see as a lacking from our very modern perspective. Regardless he treats Christine gently as if she's precious to him. There is no roughness or harshness in him and that's the main reason why I adore Patrick Wilson's Raoul. 

Raoul is the light and Erik is the dark. In the end, all Christine truly wanted was the light. Erik's attempted corruption of her innocence is horrifying as I view it now through older, more mature eyes. And Raoul's attempts to preserve her innocence endear him to me tenfold.

I would have included the confrontation scene at the end of the film buuuuuuut, I think it might be a little much for this post. So, to sum up, for both Raoul and Christine, romantic love was hovering just out of reach, waiting for them to meet again. And when they do, love awakens.

Many thanks to Heidi for hosting the blogathon and I'm glad I could participate.

13 comments

  1. Yay I'm so glad you chose Phantom! I've actually never seen the entire 2004 version, but I grew up listening to the soundtrack, so Patrick Wilson does hold a nostalgic place in my heart. Buuuut, I never liked Raoul till I saw the 25th Anniversary concert with Hadley Fraser's playing Raoul. He is so sweet and boyish and handsome and he had an amazing voice and is just awesome!

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    1. It is interesting that my loyalty switched from the Phantom to Raoul. I think I realized that liking Erik out of pity or mercy or in the hopes that he would change was foolish on my part, and would have been foolish on the part of Christine. But a lot of people love her and Erik together, and I know why because I was in that camp. So I get it.

      And yes, the 25th anniversary's Raoul is marvelous. My personal favorite Raoul is when John Cudia played him in the performance that came through Denver and I saw live. He was remarkable. And then he played the Phantom on the next tour that I saw, and he made me love the Phantom too. Such an incredible performer.

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    2. Oooh good point! Ah yes, nothing compares to seeing the play live!

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  2. I never had much use for Raoul until Patrick Wilson rode into view in the film version and changed my mind about that character forever. I liked him a bit more in the book than in the musical, but only a bit... until Patrick Wilson. Clearly, he was the right man for the role when it came to winning us over!

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    1. Yes, he was indeed the ideal choice for Raoul. It's easy for the character to come off a bit smarmy, but Patrick's interpretation is just sweet and sincerely in love. He was so well cast, just makes me happy.

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    2. Have you seen Midway? Wilson plays my favorite character in it, a quiet and steady and unassuming intelligence officer who plays a key part in the attack. He's just wonderful in it.

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    3. Oooh, no, I haven't. I know he does a lot of R rated stuff so I've never really had a chance to see a lot of his movies. But this one looks really interesting, thank you for recommending it!

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    4. I have the same problem with him! Though I hear the Alamo movie he was in is pretty watchable, and I found a copy of that at the used book store last year, so I'll watch it at some point.

      Midway does have a lot of... salty language in it. But it doesn't feel gross to me -- it's not rude or vulgar, it's more like this is just the military patois, if that makes any sense? But just so you're aware. There is nothing at all crude or racy in it, and has some lovely depictions of happy, solid marriages. Besides also a lot of battle scenes, which are non-gory because they're mostly about airplanes. I absolutely adore it -- it shot up into my top ten of favorite films after my third viewing.

      Also, it's incredibly historically accurate. And has no modern "revisionist history" sort of agenda. It's amazing.

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  3. Great post! I had the impression the first time I watched it that it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and it is, but not as strictly as I thought. You see, I thought that Raoul was a "Gaston" character, so I thought he was going to turn bad so I was determined to not like him and not be fooled. Then he...didn't and I was left confused. On rewatches I've really liked it because I knew what was happening and could appreciate how sweet he is! My absolute favorite is Hadley Fraser from the 25th Anniversary because he seemed more real to me. Not perfect as he has flaws, but he still is brave and kind and made me absolutely fall in love with him. My sister's favorite is Patrick Wilson, though, so I like watching this version with her!

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  4. I must be one of the 10 people in the world who have never seen PotO. My sisters were really into it at one point and somehow I still never saw any version a'tall, BUT you've definitely piqued my interest again and I shall have to give it a look-see at some point in the near future! Would this or the 25th anniversary rendition be your introductory recommendation? :)

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    1. Mmmm, I would say go with the 25th anniversary. It's a fabulous showcase of talent and I'm afraid Gerard Butler in the 2004 movie cannot sing, bless 'im. He's the one flaw in the film, unfortunately, but Ramin Karimloo has a beautiful voice in the 25th anniversary. It's a really lovely stage production.

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Thank you for your kind comments, which I adore!