The Magus

Film

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Time Out says

A starry cast and flashily glossy location photography can't disguise the fact that this version of John Fowles' novel (from a screenplay by the author himself) is a muddled disaster. The rather silly, semi-mystical tale of humans on a Greek island being manipulated by Quinn's mysterious Doctor Conchis may have worked well enough in print, but on film (and only about half of the book is actually used) it seems pretentious, insubstantial, and sometimes barely comprehensible.
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Release details

UK release:

1968

Duration:

116 mins

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Martin Reed

Credible Attempt For 40 years this film has had to stand as testament to the worst that the industry can concoct, which is constantly reinforced by THAT quotation from Woody Allan. I came to the DVD re-release of ‘The Magus’ like many people, having last read the book quite a few years previously, and with this reputation had fairly low expectations, but in the event viewed the film with interest, and at this distance in time believe there is a case for a reappraisal. The book is probably impossible to film, certainly within the context of a 2 hour feature, but the production was obviously constructed to be a major work, especially when the author, John Fowles himself came on board as screen writer. The greatest obstacle is that the film is almost incomprehensible to those who have not read the book, and those who know the book are disappointed; the atmosphere and subtlety of the book are not carried through into the film. But at best it couldn’t, it’s like saying Mozart’s 40’th loses depth when rendered down into a pop single using synthesizers. However the film contains all the essential elements of the book, there are no savage edits to the written material, even the execution scene is well presented. Take it on face value with an open mind. It’s probably the only film treatment that will ever be made of The Magus, so make the most of it – consider it as a collection of parts which comprise the main elements of the book, some fit well, other less so, some are downright embarrassing. It is technically well filmed, and for the most part the scenery and staging fits well well with the book. Perhaps the worst aspect is the ludicrous light jazz background music that fouls up the atmosphere that should be coming through – simply re-editing to remove the music, replacing it with something subtle and unintrusive would help the film enormously. Another problem that was born with the film was the critical barrage that hit it forced all involved in the production to close ranks and vilify their own work for the sake of preserving their professional credibility. Surely after 40 years enough time has passed to look at The Magus in a more benign light.

Martin Reed

Credible Attempt For 40 years this film has had to stand as testament to the worst that the industry can concoct, which is constantly reinforced by THAT quotation from Woody Allan. I came to the DVD re-release of ‘The Magus’ like many people, having last read the book quite a few years previously, and with this reputation had fairly low expectations, but in the event viewed the film with interest, and at this distance in time believe there is a case for a reappraisal. The book is probably impossible to film, certainly within the context of a 2 hour feature, but the production was obviously constructed to be a major work, especially when the author, John Fowles himself came on board as screen writer. The greatest obstacle is that the film is almost incomprehensible to those who have not read the book, and those who know the book are disappointed; the atmosphere and subtlety of the book are not carried through into the film. But at best it couldn’t, it’s like saying Mozart’s 40’th loses depth when rendered down into a pop single using synthesizers. However the film contains all the essential elements of the book, there are no savage edits to the written material, even the execution scene is well presented. Take it on face value with an open mind. It’s probably the only film treatment that will ever be made of The Magus, so make the most of it – consider it as a collection of parts which comprise the main elements of the book, some fit well, other less so, some are downright embarrassing. It is technically well filmed, and for the most part the scenery and staging fits well well with the book. Perhaps the worst aspect is the ludicrous light jazz background music that fouls up the atmosphere that should be coming through – simply re-editing to remove the music, replacing it with something subtle and unintrusive would help the film enormously. Another problem that was born with the film was the critical barrage that hit it forced all involved in the production to close ranks and vilify their own work for the sake of preserving their professional credibility. Surely after 40 years enough time has passed to look at The Magus in a more benign light.

Martin Reed

Credible attempt? For 40 years this film has had to stand as testament to the worst that the industry can concoct, which is constantly reinforced by THAT quotation from Woody Allan. I came to the DVD re-release of ‘The Magus’ like many people, having last read the book quite a few years previously, and with this reputation fairly low expectations, but in the event viewed the film with interest, and at this distance in time believe there is a case for a reappraisal. The book is probably impossible to film, certainly within the context of a 2 hour feature, but the production was obviously constructed to be a major work, especially when John Fowles himself came on board as screen writer. The greatest obstacle is that the film is almost incomprehensible to those who have not read the book, and those who know the book are disappointed; the atmosphere and subtlety of the book are not carried through into the film. But it couldn’t, it’s like saying Mozart’s 40’th loses depth when rendered down into a pop single using synthesizers. However the film contains all the essential elements of the book, there are no savage edits to the written material, even the execution scene is well presented. Take it on face value with an open mind. It’s probably the only film treatment that will ever be made of The Magus, so make the most of it – consider it as a collection of parts which comprise the main elements of the book, some fit well, other less so, some are downright embarrassing. It is technically well filmed, and for the most part the scenery and staging fits well well with the book. Perhaps the worst aspect is the ludicrous light jazz background music that fouls up the atmosphere that should be coming through – simply re-editing to remove the music, replacing it with something subtle and unintrusive would help the film enormously. Another problem that was born with the film was the critical barrage that hit it forced all involved in the production to close ranks and vilify their own work for the sake of preserving their professional credibility. After 40 years enough time has passed to look at The Magus in a more benign light.

Martin Reed

Credible attempt? For 40 years this film has had to stand as testament to the worst that the industry can concoct, which is constantly reinforced by THAT quotation from Woody Allan. I came to the DVD re-release of ‘The Magus’ like many people, having last read the book quite a few years previously, and with this reputation fairly low expectations, but in the event viewed the film with interest, and at this distance in time believe there is a case for a reappraisal. The book is probably impossible to film, certainly within the context of a 2 hour feature, but the production was obviously constructed to be a major work, especially when John Fowles himself came on board as screen writer. The greatest obstacle is that the film is almost incomprehensible to those who have not read the book, and those who know the book are disappointed; the atmosphere and subtlety of the book are not carried through into the film. But it couldn’t, it’s like saying Mozart’s 40’th loses depth when rendered down into a pop single using synthesizers. However the film contains all the essential elements of the book, there are no savage edits to the written material, even the execution scene is well presented. Take it on face value with an open mind. It’s probably the only film treatment that will ever be made of The Magus, so make the most of it – consider it as a collection of parts which comprise the main elements of the book, some fit well, other less so, some are downright embarrassing. It is technically well filmed, and for the most part the scenery and staging fits well well with the book. Perhaps the worst aspect is the ludicrous light jazz background music that fouls up the atmosphere that should be coming through – simply re-editing to remove the music, replacing it with something subtle and unintrusive would help the film enormously. Another problem that was born with the film was the critical barrage that hit it forced all involved in the production to close ranks and vilify their own work for the sake of preserving their professional credibility. After 40 years enough time has passed to look at The Magus in a more benign light.