The Death of Klinghoffer | Chicago Reader

The Death of Klinghoffer

A gripping combination of high art and documentary realism, this 2003 feature by Penny Woolcock adapts John Adams's opera about the Palestinian hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro off the coast of Egypt in 1985 and the terrorists' symbolic murder of Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jew in a wheelchair. The opera's sole U.S. production was panned for its political naivete and “bland, derivative” music, but any such flaws evaporate on-screen as the haunting Chorus of Exiled Palestinians and Chorus of Exiled Jews accompany gritty black-and-white sequences set during the founding of Israel. By comparison, the color sequences aboard the ship seem rather arch, but the operatic form elevates a political murder to the realm of classical tragedy, as the ship's captain (Christopher Maltman) tries to empathize and reason with one of the terrorists (Kamel Boutros), a tactic that earns him the scorn of Klinghoffer's widow (Yvonne Howard). 120 min.

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