Relationship Analysis – Film Review – Interpersonal Communications Class


Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom & Christine Diaae

Some of the Concepts:

Identity Management, Ineffective Expression of Emotions, Intimacy & Disclosure, Non-Verbal Communication, and Defensive & Supportive Behaviors

In the film, The Phantom of the Opera, the relationship between the Phantom and Christine Diaaѐ is emotional, long-term, and also dysfunctional. Christine is a dancer in several of the shows in the Paris opera house and the Phantom lives in the underground cave beneath the opera house. He had made residence there since he was a child, perhaps nine years old. There he fantasizes and plans how he wants the Opera house shows to be conducted. The Phantom, played by actor Gerard Butler, seems to use most of his time up by trying to frighten and control the residents of the opera house. He first arrived at the opera house when he was brought there by a French girl (who later became the Madam of the girls in the opera house) after he escaped his “master” in the freak show extravaganza by murdering him. Half of the Phantom’s face was deformed. It looked like it was burned. He was treated like an animal, that is, he was severely abused and neglected. He was damaged emotional and mentally in so many ways, including by being laughed and mocked at by the freak show spectators. Christine had been living in the opera house since she was a child. The Phantom had sung to her through the walls, taught her to sing…and to sing beautifully. It seemed as though he was not just trying to make a connection but that he was also conditioning her, taking advantage, and he was in dire need of a more intimate relationship as he lived in secrecy and he felt ashamed or embarrassed his deformed face.  He was significantly older then Christine (approximately the age of her best friend’s mother) and became obsessed and in love or lust with her. When new owners took over the opera house and Christine was becoming a woman, the Phantom came for her and also caused a lot of destruction and chaos to make sure Christine was put as the lead singer or actress. When he retrieved her to bring her to his hideaway (and home); she seemed to be in a trance. As she grew up she had believed he was her very own angel sent by her father, the angel of music. Part of the reason for this is that when her father had died, she was a young child and he had told her an angel would watch over her.

“Meg, when your mother brought me here to live, whenever I’d come down here alone to light a candle for my father. A voice from above and in my dreams… He was always there. You see, when my father lay dying, he told me I would be protected by an angel, an angel of music.”

– Christine Diaaѐ

She, in some way, may have needed companionship, reassurance, and fantasy, a dream, and at least, some kind of focus; which I believe was music and the arts. This also was what the Phantom needed as well. Unfortunately, unlike Christine, the Phantom was damaged both externally and internally and had poor interpersonal or social communication skills; which is why I’m sure he choose a child to create a bond with. A child can be less judgmental or more accepting, easier to direct and fragile like him. Christine may have been especially sensitive or willing either as a child or adult because of her gentle nature and because she was an orphan. The Phantom was also an orphan which was an especially interesting concept to me.

When Ms. Diaae first meets the Phantom, there seems to be a mutual attraction between them but the reasons for it are abnormal or distorted. In their initial communication with each other, both are benefited in certain ways, Christine learns to sing and gets into the spotlight and the Phantom gets to feel powerful. He has a “halo effect” on her because of the positive characteristic – his beautiful voice. The Phantom expresses most of his desires for himself and for the relationship he has with Christine in non-verbal ways because he lives secrecy to a certain extent. He sends notes and a rose as a gift. He disturbs the set/stage by manipulating the mechanics to drop the curtains and other objects and people in the studio set to make accidents happen that will affect what will happen in the dynamics of the show and people so he can put his apprentice and love interest, Christine, in the spotlight.

The chaos he creates may be because he is out of control but also because he wants to be seen. He wants to communicate to the world, “I am here, and I am somebody!” With Ms. Diaaѐ, when hurt, he lashes out physically, by smashing or breaking objects. He cries in front of her. His body gestures and movements are dramatic towards her. He changes the tone and pitch of his voice and uses sarcasm as well. He is highly expressive in a physical way; by touching, pushing her down, knocking something over, using dramatic gestures or body movements. The Phantom keeps a large amount of distance from himself and other people (usually a public or social distance even when in close proximity) and undoubtedly has had few conversations and interactions, including haptics.

In the relationship between them the Phantom discloses information about himself by showing her where he lives, by singing to her, and by revealing some of his deepest emotions. Christine doesn’t disclose much to him except through her facial expressions and body language. You can see the following in her facial expressions: wonder, lust, curiosity, relaxation, passion, compassion, and fear. Some of the non-verbal and emotional physiological signs Christine revealed was that her chest was rising up and down dramatically as if her breathing was labored and heart pumping quickly. Her skin became flushed; her pupils enlarged, and eyed wide open.

He wants to live in the light and Christine is a way for him to do that. What he sees in her is probably everything he has always wanted for himself, to be beautiful, to be loved, to be noticed, and to be admired. He uses her to get his voice into the public and to have a face – to be known. It is important to be able to express yourself and to other people and to be regarded. How people see you and treat you impact a person’s self-esteem and identity. The Phantom’s relationship with Christine was affected by his self-concept.  In the “freak” show he was called the devil’s child; he was put into chains and his head was obscured by a bag. In the opera house, he was called a ghost and the Phantom. His self-talk was negative. He called himself a monster and a repulsive carcass.  He didn’t exist in reality or in the world of social norms where competent communication skills are a day to day necessity. His identity was shaped by his the climate created by the abuse he suffered as a child and by his isolation. His social role and appearance caused him to obscure his face with a mask, live in hiding, feel hideous, and react appallingly when Christine removed the mask from his face.  Originally when he communicated with Christine it was from behind walls or mirrors. His influence over her may not have been the same if he would have been known publicly or if he had been in social situations surrounded by many people. His communication skills would likely have failed him. What ultimately is Christine’s feeling in regard to The Phantom’s identity? She says, “This haunted face holds no horror for me now, it’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.”

Christine is compassionate, no doubt she has empathy, but despite that she recognizes how the Phantom is a shattered and dangerous person. She is also drawn to him as he is to her, as many of us are, because of the excitement; a thrill, adrenaline rush, risk taking, curiosity. You can see her perceptiveness and care by how she responds to him, by the way she speaks to him, and by her facial expressions; especially her eyes.  After she removed his mask to see his face, he revealed his true self-concept of himself. Christine’s eyes filled with tears, she looks at him with sympathy, care, and surprise. She gets in close physical proximity and gently puts his mask back on. She does not speak cruel words to him or tell him she is horrified by his deformity.

There is obvious contrast between the Phantom and her childhood sweetheart, Raoul. The Phantom is angry, possessive, unruly, depressed, insecure, and chaotic. He lives in darkness and manages his relationship with the outside world by using “crazy-making” techniques. Raoul, on the other hand, represents light, honor, and wholesomeness. More importantly, there is an obvious contrast in her relationship with each man. This becomes obvious when you observe their communicative behaviors. In the music, The Phantom expresses that he wants Christine to belong to him and Raoul sings, “Let me be your freedom.”

Some people say Christine Diaaѐ should have chosen The Phantom. To those people I would say, “How would you like to live your life in darkness, away from everyone you know and love, to have limited or no communication with world for the rest of your life? Why do we need to communicate? We need to communicate because it is a vital yet basic necessity of being human. A life with limited or dysfunctional communication would negatively affect our identities and leave us imprisoned. The communication that would exist in a relationship with someone like the Phantom would be inadequate, plagued by tragedy, and jeopardizes your health and happiness.”

The Phantom communicates by using control, aggression, and violence. He communicated in defensive ways because of his minimal trust and the communication climate that he had created revolved completely around his own desires. He had come to believe that he was held accountable to no one. Christine responded to his defensive and crazy-making behaviors mostly in indirect ways. Throughout most of their relationship, Christine was passive and when she realized who he really was even though at the first meeting he had lashed out with hostility; she responded by accommodating, compromising, and avoiding! What is understandable is that she was confused and fragile. What she believed once to be a blessing – an angel from heaven, for most of her life, turned out to be a flesh and blood man; damaged, imperfect, a murderer.

The Phantom used evaluative speech including using “you” when he felt betrayed by Christine when she was with her childhood sweetheart, Raoul. He believed it was him against the world and behaved in a superior way. He used manipulation, a strategy to evoke certain responses from Christine and others. It used control by imposing his wants upon Christine whereas Christine was empathetic and treated him with a sense of equality. Even so, she saw his deeply flawed psyche and perceptions and knew his reign of terror should not continue. At the end she finally used other techniques including some manipulation in order to deal with the reality of the situation. The best part was when she became empowered and spoke with a clear message of her intentions without the fear she had for so long. When she got to the point of losing the fear, he could see that, he could see that it was he who was powerless and that combined with her compassion and lack of cruelty resulted in the Phantom agreeing to basically quit his insanity to kill Raoul and kidnap Christine.

The Phantom’s thinking was irrational at times. He engaged in negative self-talk and most likely ruminated because of his isolation and emotional memories or learned behaviors.  These things likely contributed to his lack of competent communication skills and inadequate socialization with Christine and the rest of the world. Christine’s relationship towards the Phantom was partly affected by her own emotional memories of the Phantom as an “angel of music” and her father. In the relationship between Christine and the Phantom there was a struggle to bring two worlds together. Despite their similarities, there were just as many differences; and one of those main differences is how they each communicated with the world and with their environments.

Side Notes: What I learned or found interesting was that sometimes a situation can never be changed no matter how well you communicate – or I should say a person might not be able to change but your situation can change. For the most part competent communication is beneficial for everyone but as is said “it take two” – and I say “but it starts with you.” I never Realized before how much fear or control could impact a person’s ability to communicate. Christine, for example, was speechless many times.. until the final scenes. Also, her empathy may have actually put her in more danger. She may have been using more of a low context communication style. I realize how greatly communicating can shape our personalities and impact our social lives. It begins as a child with our parents, siblings, teachers, other adults, or perhaps church. An example of how important communication is: Christine went to her father’s grave alone without telling anyone that she left or where she was going.



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