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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 17:26 GMT
Madonna film spills few secrets
By Chris Leggett
BBC News website entertainment reporter

The film follows Madonna on last year's Re-Invention tour
A new documentary about Madonna gives fans an insight into the mixture of hard work and spirituality which drives the singer - but despite its title, there are few fresh revelations for fans.

I'm Going to Tell You a Secret, which will be screened on Channel 4 next month, follows her 2004 tour from the dancer audition stage through to the final performance.

The two-hour film is directed by arty pop video director Jonas Akerlund and executive produced by the singer herself, more than 20 years after her first hit.

It gives an authorised perspective on her personal life, including her interest in philosophy and theology.

Some of her favourite passages, from sources as varied as the Old Testament and her own pen, punctuate the film.

"Light is immortality," Madonna - a student of the mystical Jewish teachings of Kabbalah - says in a voiceover at one point.

"It's a place where there is no pain or suffering."

Disturbing images

The documentary opens with Madonna reading a section of the Book of Revelations about "the coming of the beast", over images of wolves and the singer herself being restrained.

Madonna performed at London's Koko venue earlier this week

This will be the opening film for her stage show.

A renowned perfectionist, Madonna, 47, takes the preparations very seriously.

"When you are putting together a show, it's like being in wartime," she explains. "There's a unity."

She sits in on the dancer auditions to have her say on the selection.

After watching the hopefuls, the former full-time dancer realises how far she has come.

"I'm glad I'm not a dancer any more," she says. "It's a dog's life."

Prayer is clearly an important part of Madonna's preparations.

Personal philosophy

She gets her dancers to join hands in a circle shortly before they take to the stage.

Madonna and daughter Lourdes
When not making dance records, Madonna is a children's author

She tells them to lead the audience: "I want you to inspire them to be a better version of what they are already."

The backstage footage is mixed with live performances of hits like Vogue and Like a Prayer, along with newer material like Hollywood.

Madonna's more politicised stance sees her dancers perform American Life in army uniforms in front of a backdrop film containing images of war and religion.

Backstage, she explains she feels the urge to "wake people up".

"You've got to give people solutions or they will fall asleep again," she explains.

Away from the stage, fans get an insight into her improved relationship with her father, with whom she often battled after her mother died in 1963.

Father Sylvio even gives his view on Kaballah: "I've read some of the books she's given me and there's nothing in it that isn't in the Scriptures."

Madonna's own children appear throughout, with daughter Lourdes saying she wished she saw her mother more when she was touring.

Home life

The singer admits her relationship with British film director husband Guy Ritchie is not "easy" at times.

"I thank God every day I am married to a man who makes me think," she says.

Madonna has repeatedly changed her image since the 1980s

Ritchie appears regularly, wrestling with Madonna's bodyguards in the gym, hiring a London pub for his birthday or singing along to his favourite Irish folk songs.

Elsewhere, she is shown writing poems to thank her personal assistant and taking her dancers for a character-building evening watching classical pianists in Paris.

"I feel like I know so much more than I knew before," she reveals.

"Sometimes fun is over-rated."

Those hoping for shock revelations about media-savvy Madonna may be disappointed by the film but she clearly wants her audience to know she is more responsible as she nears 50.

"I've a huge ego and I need to change," she says at one point.

"Knowing is the beginning."

I'm Going to Tell You a Secret will be shown on Channel 4 on 1 December at 2100 GMT

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