Aria (1987)

Aria (1987)

Aria is a 1987 British anthology film produced by Don Boyd from Virgin Group’s visual section consisting of ten short films by a variety of directors. It was entered into the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

Each segment features its director’s visual accompaniment to arias and scenes from operas. Each film has minimal dialogue (most have none at all), with most of the spoken content being the operas’ lyrics (libretto) in Italian, French, or German.

The music archive source was RCA Red Seal Records (which at the time included Erato Records, a label which later went to Warner Music; RCA is now a part of Sony Music Entertainment, further complicating the film’s music rights).


Un ballo in maschera

A fictionalised account of a 1931 assassination attempt on King Zog I of Albania, notable for his shooting back at his would-be assassins and surviving. (In the actual attempt, King Zog was leaving a performance of Pagliacci.)

Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Starring Theresa Russell
Running time: 14 minutes

Aria (1987)

“La vergine degli angeli” from La forza del destino

Two London teenage girls and a young boy steal a car.

Directed by Charles Sturridge
Starring Nicola Swain, Jackson Kyle, Marianne McLaughlin
Running time: 5 minutes


Two young women try to attract the attention of oblivious bodybuilders, eventually stripping off.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Starring Valérie Allain
Running time: 11 minutes


A bedroom farce set in San Luis Obispo’s famous Madonna Inn, in which a movie producer cheats on his wife unaware that she, too, is there with a clandestine lover of her own.

Directed by Julien Temple
Starring Buck Henry and Beverly D’Angelo
Running time: 14 minutes

Aria (1987)

“Glück, das mir verblieb” from Die tote Stadt

A look at the seemingly-dead city of Bruges, Belgium. Scenic footage of the empty streets and cemeteries is intercut with a duet of two lovers, providing counter-point to the dead city.

Directed by Bruce Beresford
Starring Elizabeth Hurley and Peter Birch
Running time: 5 minutes

Abaris ou les Boréades

A re-creation of opening night at Paris’s Théâtre Le Ranelagh (fr) in 1734. The audience is filled with a raffish assortment of inmates from an asylum.

Directed by Robert Altman
Starring Julie Hagerty, Geneviève Page, Sandrine Dumas, Chris Campion
Running time: 7 minutes

“Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde

Two young lovers arrive in Las Vegas. After driving down Fremont Street, they check into a cheap hotel room where they unsuccessfully try to commit suicide following the consummation of their relationship.

Directed by Franc Roddam
Starring Bridget Fonda in her first credited film role.
Running time: 7 minutes

“Nessun dorma” from Turandot

After a car crash, a lovely young girl imagines her body is being adorned by jewels mirroring her injuries, in a tribal ritual parallel to the procedures of the surgical team treating her, until she wakes up in the operating room after resuscitation.

Directed by Ken Russell
Starring Linzi Drew
Running time: 7 minutes

“Depuis le jour” from Louise

A veteran opera singer gives her final performance, intercut by 8mm home movies of an early love affair.

Directed by Derek Jarman
Starring Tilda Swinton
Running time: 6 minutes

“Vesti la giubba” from Pagliacci

A virtuoso remembers his career while arriving at an opera house, visiting the dressing room to put on his clown makeup, and performing the aria for his audience of one. (This story provides a vague framing narrative to link together the other segments.)

Directed by Bill Bryden
Starring John Hurt and Sophie Ward
Running time: 4 minutes

Aria Movie Poster (1987)

Aria (1987)

Directed by: Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge, Julien Temple
Starring: Theresa Russell, Buck Henry, Beverly D’Angelo, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Anita Morris, Bridget Fonda, Julie Hagerty
Screenplay by: Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Don Boyd, Bill Bryden, Louis de Cahusac, Derek Jarman, Philippe Quinault, Franc Roddam, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge, Julien Temple
Production Design by: Scott Bushnell, Paul Dufficey, John Hay, Christopher Hobbs, Matthew C. Jacobs, Diana Johnstone, Andrew McAlpine, Piers Plowden
Cinematography by: Gabriel Beristain, Caroline Champetier, Frederick Elmes, Harvey Harrison, Christopher Hughes, Pierre Mignot, Mike Southon, Dante Spinotti, Oliver Stapleton, Gale Tattersall
Music by: Giuseppe Verdi, Gustave Charpentier, Giacomo Puccini, Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Release Date: September 15, 1987