On a deeper level this story is about the needless divorce between Christian spirituality and natural sensuality. It is about how the worldly system exploits God-given sexuality for greed and money.
Review by David Bruce


This page was created on June 2, 2001
This page was last updated on May 23, 2005

Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Written by Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce

Nicole Kidman .... Satine
Ewan McGregor .... Christian
John Leguizamo .... Toulouse Lautrec
Jim Broadbent .... Zidler
Richard Roxburgh .... Duke of Worcester
Garry McDonald .... The Doctor
Kerry Walker .... Marie
David Wenham .... Audrey
Christine Anu .... Arabia Natalie
Jackson Mendoza .... China Doll
Lara Mulcahy .... Mome Fromage
Kylie Minogue .... Green Fairy
Linal Haft .... Warner
Keith Robinson .... Le Petomane
Peter Whitford .... Stage Manager
Norman Kaye .... Doctor
Arthur Dignam .... The Father
Carole Skinner .... Landlady

Produced by Steve E. Andrews (associate producer), Fred Baron (producer), Martin Brown (producer), Catherine Knapman (co-producer), Baz Luhrmann (producer), Catherine Martin (associate producer)
Original music by Craig Armstrong, David Bowie (song), Marius De Vries, Steve Hitchcock
Cinematography by Donald McAlpine
Film Editing by Jill Bilcock

Rated PG-13 for sexual content (no nudity).

QuickTime Trailer
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Quicktime TV Spot
4.8 MB 1.2 MB
Video Clip
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QuickTime Clips in French
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RealVideo Trailer
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Moulin Rouge
Various Artists

1. Lady Marmalade - Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya & Lil' Kim 2. Diamond Dogs - Beck & Timbaland 3. Children of the Revolution - Bono, Gavin Friday & Maurice Seezer 4. Nature Boy - David Bowie & Massive Attack 5. Le Tango de Roxanne - Cast with Jose Feliciano 6. Because We Can - Fatboy Slim 7. Sparkling Diamonds - Nicole Kidman 8. One Day I'll Fly Away - Nicole Kidman 9. Rhythm of the Night - Valeria 10. Hindi Sad Diamonds - Nicole Kidman & Cast 11. Your Song - Ewan MacGregor 12. Elephant Love Medley - Ewan MacGregor & Nicole Kidman 13. Come What May - Ewan MacGregor & Nicole Kidman 14. Compliante De La Butte - Rufus Wainwright

Club Moulin Rouge - an experience you won't forget!
SYNOPSIS:Click to enlarge
The story follows a poet (McGregor) who defies his father by moving to Montmartre, France, the 19th century equivalent of Andy Warhol's Factory. He falls into the world of Toulouse-Lautrec (Leguizamo) and his entourage, and is drafted to write a nightclub spectacular. In this seedy world of sex, drugs and electricity, he begins a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair with the club's highest paid star and courtesan (Kidman).
Click to enlargeNicole Kidman flexed her muscles during her recent appearance on ?The Tonight Show with Jay Leno? promoting this very important film.
(NBC THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO? May 16, 2001 -- Photo: Paul Drinkwater)


Web master

With additions by SILKE FORCE

A doctoral student in Religious Studies at Concordia University, Montreal.
Currently designing a course on Religion and Film.

Click to enlargeA STORY OF LOVE
The film is very straightforward about its theme: "This is a story about love." Its motto is: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is love and be loved in return."

It is about "a boy who wandered so very far from home." And this boy, the Poet, narrates the tragic ending of the story before we know the whole story, "The woman I loved has died."

There is no surprise ending. We know what is going to happen. We have seen this familiar story before in other incarnations. And yet, this film tells the story in such a way that we feel it is being told for the very first time. It really is an important film. When I watched this film unfold I had the feeling that I was witnessing motion picture history. A rare classic. A musical that transcended its genre. The audience sang along with it, smiled, laughed and cried. It's a story of tragic love that takes you on an exhilarating and joyous ride. This film captured me and I did not want it to end.

On a deeper level this story is about the needless divorce between Christian spirituality and natural sensuality. It is about how the worldly system exploits God-given sexuality for greed and money.

It is about overcoming sexual shame and dehumanizing behavior, while enjoying human love and sexuality as God intended it.

We are introduced to it as a center of sin. And indeed, it is a brothel. It is a place where men indulge their fantasies, women sell their bodies and the powers that be sell their souls (and the souls of others) for greed and power. So, what good thing could ever happen here?
Click to enlargeSOMEHOW WE ENJOY IT
Despite all that we know that is wrong about such environments, there is something exciting and pleasing about the festivities here. There is something beyond sexploitation, lust and greed that pulls and captivates us. But what is it?
The main attraction at the Moulin Rouge is Satine. She is the cultural incarnation of Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Madonna. She is the Great Goddess of ancient myth expressed and worshiped in our time. Click to enlargeShe is everyman's unobtainable fantasy. She swings her perfect form high above the men as they reach out to her. She singings Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," acts like Marlene Dietrich, while speaking like Mae West. We feel happy in her familiar counterfeit presence. Why is that?
Christian enters the Moulin Rouge. Somehow he is different from the nameless other men. He is a seeker of Truth, Freedom and LoveClick to enlarge -a seemingly vulnerable man who has an inner strength that transcends all the superficiality around him. He is capable of seeing something beyond the lust and greed. Somehow he is in touch with the greater good in life. When he looks upon Satine there is a sense of true wonderment, humanity and compassion.

In ancient myth, the goddess Sati(ne) was a Virgin Huntress. Her origins seem to begin in Upper Egypt; in a place was "The Land of Sati". In India, her holy city was Abu, the City of the Elephant. It is said that the Elephant god mated with her and she brought forth the Enlightened Son of God, Buddha. Still today there are worship centers in India known as the "Footprints of Sati." In the film these mythological connections are underscored by the Elephant structure of the Moulin Rouge, the "Elephant Love Medley" and the performance of Madonna's "LikClick to enlargee a Virgin." Satine dresses alternatively in White and Red gowns -the classic Virgin Whore goddess motif.

It is interesting to note that the modern mind word connects the name SATINE with SATAN, and especially so when the main character's name is CHRISTIAN. She is a Courtesan (a prostitute) and he is a poet of truth, freedom and love. They are as opposite as Satan and Christ.

However, SATINE has no actual symbolic connection with Satan in this story. She is not Christian's adversary. (In Greek SATAN means adversary). Instead she and the Moulin Rouge are considered Satanic. In an opening scene a priest standing outside the Moulin Rouge warns us of the "spiritual sin" inside. Also, Christian's father warned him of the satanic nature of the Moulin Rouge.Click to enlarge

SATINE is not a Satanic type at all. Rather, she is considered the representation of Satan, evil, and sin by religious zealots and the self-righteous.

This is the story of the prostitute who is loved by Christ and loves him in return. This is the story of the transforming power of love, even over those who are considered satanic.

The connection between the Moulin Rouge and the Elephant is interesting. To this day the elephant represents sacred marriage in India. Buddhist Monks lead an elephant that has been painted white through the streets as part of their fertility ritual. Men dressed in women's clothes (transvestites) telling coarse jokes follow in the procession - a scene that connects at a certain level with the burlesque atmosphere of the Moulin Rouge, a blending of the profane and the sacred.Click to enlarge

In the film's closing scenes, the religious Indian motif and its connection to the elephant give the Moulin Rouge the sense of being a sacred place. Satine has been transformed into a Virgin Queen Goddess. The filmmaker conveys a profound sense of the sacred.

The story is set at the turn of the previous century (an echo of our own), but it is different in that it predates the two disastrous world wars, events that changed our concepts of God as well as of Freedom and Beauty. The world lost its innocence in the First World War and, despite the "seedy" Bohemian setting, there is still an underlying ingenuousness to the both time and place. When the wrecking ball strikes the wall behind Zidler's head, it foreshadows the bombs that would eventually destroy the innocence of all.

The repeated background image of the windmill seems to symbolize the wheel of time, relentlessly turning and moving us into the future. In one shot, there is a poster in which an upside-down woman with outstretched arms and legs was depicted as being tied to the vanes of the mill; perhaps beauty itself is here crucified on the wheel of time? Moreover, her pose is the inversion of Leonardo DaVinci's drawing of "man," thus inverting the advance of humanity, and once again presaging the "Great" war.

It is in the character of Christian that the story takes on some marvelous undertones. Christian is on a quest for truth, freedom, beauty and love. Click to enlargeAs he gazes from the window in his room to the Moulin Rouge, there is a highly symbolic space (gulf) between them. Christian's room is set in blue tones, and cluttered with his typewriter and papers. He is a person of the written word. He represents a religious pilgrim of the Word on a journey for truth and love.Click to enlarge

Interestingly, the place where he is staying prominently displays the sign: "Chambres A La Journée" - rooms by the day. When the story first begins, Christian is living only one day at a time, with no thought of the future. Even so, he has not yet learned to seize each God-given day and really live it fully, until he finds love.

The film is wonderfully laden with musical nostalgia, a look back at the innocence of our youth (and/or that of our parents), and says a great deal about the Garden of Eden of our collective memory.At the same time, it seems to be a cautionary tale: not to so lose ourselves in our dreams that we become unaware of what is really happening in the world.

The association of Christian with the color blue is in direct contrast to Satine's association with the color red. The eye cannot physically see red and blue at the same time.

Red and blue contrast and play havoc with the eye.
They are opposites.
Click to enlargeClick to enlargeWhen Christian is in Satine's world he is surrounded by red. When he gazes from the street up to her window, his face reflects the red glow from her room.
Click to enlargeClick to enlargeConversely, When Satine, wearing a red dress, is with Christian in his world, under the night sky, everything is transformed into a heavenly blue. It is a powerfully spiritual moment in the film. In fact Christian stands on top of the Elephant's head with his arms outstretched in the form of the cross in a highly symbolic moment.
The love they share transforms them. During their moments of exchanged genuine love, the film shifts to earth tones, Click to enlargeconveying a peaceful sense of naturalness. Contrast this with an earlier scene in which the Poet tries to read to the Courtesan in the context of an exploitive sex, lust and greed (the red brothel). The former has no real substance, no real love. The latter is real and natural -filled with sharing and caring love. In the former the Courtesan uses her body to tease and seduce -lacking any real sense of humanity. In the latter her body is at rest (no exploitation) and she is experiencing the joy of being fully human with all the genuine sensual feelings that go with it.
There is a connection here to the biblical Song of Solomon, a poetry book of sexual yearning, admiration, self-discovery, and descriptions of the pleasurable bodily charms. Here true love is presented in a natural way that is non exploitive, yet sensual.
One of the first associations that the film makes with red is that of blood. Satine's blood. She is dying of TB. Her blood will have a redemptive quality to it however. It is through her red blood that truth, freedom and love gain the victory over lust and greed.
The Duke of Worcester is the perfect villain. He has influence, power and wealth to control the Moulin Rouge and to posses Satine. He insists that Christian and Satine be separated for his own selfish and greedy interest.
Zidler may understand the important things in life, but he puts business first. He prioritizes corporate gain over what is right and good. He is a "friend" that uses and manipulates. He demands that Satine separated her self from Christian, because, "The show must go on.".

Satine breaks the relationship that she cannot deny. Christian is broken hearted. But, the conflict within Satine cannot last long. Love wins out against all obstacles.

Click to enlargeClick to enlargeLOVE HAS CHANGED ALL THINGS.
Although she now wears the diamonds of the Duke (the mark of the beast, as it were), her heart belongs to Christian. She now appears in blue -the color of Christian. She is no longer the embodiment of a sex queen. Now she is the embodiment of true love, passion and truth.
The Moulin Rouge has been transformed into a golden eastern sacred place. The color red has been replaced by softer tones (pink, white and tan). These natural tones remind us of the wonderful moments they had together and of the transcending and transforming power of love.
Click to enlargeClick to enlargeBUT DEATH IS IMMINENT
Flashes of the pale green lighting is used to convey the imminence of Satine's death. Emotions run high. Satine's death comes. Through her death Zidler comes to his better senses, the Duke's power is conquered. Her death brings forth truth, justice and the full realization of love. Sadly, however Christian now faces life without Satin.

Song of Solomon 8:5-7: "I stirred up your passions under the apple tree where you were born. Always keep me in your heart and wear this bracelet to remember me by. The passion of love bursting into flame is more powerful than death, stronger than the grave. Love cannot be drowned by oceans or floods; it cannot be bought, no matter what is offered."

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... and it was good." In the film there is a scene where the camera pans towards heaven. With heaven and earth in view the Moulin Rouge appears between them. There has been a great division between the heavenly and the earthly and this is not good. Earthiness has been red lined apart from heaven.

In the story of the Garden of Eden, the woman and the man enjoyed each other, as "one flesh" sexually and sensually, and the pleasures of the enchanting world around them. They walked with God. And, they "were both naked, and they felt no shame."

Then greed entered. They wanted to be as God. And they disobeyed God in their greedy quest. That sin brought about their fall.

Their shame of disobedience replaced their former freedom and they "realized they were naked." They tried covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding from God.

The story accurately describes the human condition as active disobedience toward God. But, unfortunately sensuality rather than disobedience has been viewed as the enemy in the story. Even though the story has nothing to do with sexual misconduct, Church leaders have used the story to vilify sensuality (Satine) ever since.

Scholar Reay Tannahill writes: "It was Augustine who epitomized a general feeling among church fathers that the act of intercourse was fundamentally disgusting... Ambrose called it filthy and degrading, Methodius unseemly, Jerome unclean, Tertullian shameful, Ambrose defilement." (as quoted by McClintock, 2001, pg 42).

A warning against the Moulin Rouge that comes form the Christian Priest at the beginning of the film reminds me of what Sam Keen writes in The Passionate Life: "Romance did not thrive well in the atmosphere of Christian theology. Much of the sexual ethic of western Christendom was tainted by Gnostic-Manichean dualism that regarded matter as degraded, nature as the creation of a demon god, women as inferiors, and sex as lust to be repressed... sexual feelings were one of the delightful gifts of the Creator. As it was, Christianity fell into an anti-erotic posture; glorifying virginity, degrading women, linking sex to guilty, discouraging romance, denying the flesh, casting suspicion upon sensuality" (McClintock, 2001, pg 43).

It is, in fact, the heresy of Gnostic dualism in the institutional church that causes many Christians today to think of natural sensuality as sinful. Gnostic Christianity disowns sensuality, while the world systems embrace it, just as Zidler and the Duke of Worcester do in the film. The problem is that the world systems market to human sensuality in all too often dehumanizing ways.

The separation between heaven and earth is not good. Christian and Satin need to come together, not in the context of a worldly system (Moulin Rouge), but within the context of the Garden as they walk with God.

The world system would dry up overnight if Christians could figure it out, validate and make room for sensuality and sexuality as wonderful gifts of God. In the meantime, however, what modern Gnostic Christianity calls shameful the world systems turn into a billion dollar industry.

Will it happen in my lifetime? I think not. Deplorable Gnostic dualism wins, and Christians have suffered the loss of sensuality, just as Christian suffered the loss of Satine in the film.

It is such a tragic love story.

Go to page 2

From the Song of Solomon
a guide to SENSUALITY.

(Sensuality and Spirituality go together).

My bride, my very own,
you have stolen my heart!
With one glance from your eyes
and the glow of your necklace,
you have stolen my heart.
Your love is sweeter than wine;
the smell of your perfume
is more fragrant than spices.
Your lips are a honeycomb;
milk and honey flow from your tongue.

My darling,
you are lovely, so very lovely?
as you look through your veil,
your eyes are those of a dove.
Your hair tosses about as gracefully
as goats coming down from Gilead.

... your mouth is shapely
behind your veil are hidden beautiful rosy cheeks.
Your neck is graceful...
Your breasts are perfect;
they are twin deer feeding among lilies.
I will hasten to those hills
sprinkled with sweet perfume
and stay there till sunrise.
My darling, you are lovely in every way.

From the Song of Solomon
-The Bible is a ticket to freedom from shame and bondage!
"And the truth shall set you free."

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