Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Red Shoes

This evening I watched, courtesy of BBC iPlayer, a film about ballet called The Red Shoes. Starring Marius Goring, Anton Walbrook, and the stunning Moira Shearer, and produced in 1948, this film was quite different to nearly anything I've seen before. It got off to a bit of a slow start, I have to say, without much ballet, and the little that was there didn't seem very good (in my inexperienced eyes), and I nearly turned it off.I'm glad I didn't though, because it was a really great film, and included an abridged, film-rather-than-stage version of the title ballet, which I really enjoyed. The films and tv programmes I have watched about ballet never seem to show you much of the ballet that they're featuring, and so I really enjoyed getting the whole picture of what the ballet was about, which made it much easier to see the parallels with the main storyline of the film.
Speaking of the story line, the film focuses on a ballet company, whose artistic director is man named Boris Lermontov. His abrupt, angry, controlling manner make him an impossible character to like, and his moustache is awful, but it suits the role so I'll let him away with it.

In the initial scenes, we are in the theatre watching a ballet put on by this company, with both Vicky Page, and Julian Cramer. Lermontov meets Vicky that evening at a party, and refuses to watch her dancing, but hires her to his company anyway. Cramer writes to Lermontov the next day and explains that he wrote the music for the ballet we've just watched, but it was stolen from him by his professor, who gave it to Lermontov. Cramer is given a job as an orchestra coach.
Both of the young characters are initially well treated by Lermontov, in his own way. Vicky is made a principle dancer, and Cramer composes a new ballet for her to dance, and it is over this that they fall in love. This makes Lermontov very angry, when he eventually finds out, as he is besotted by Vicky, and plans to make her famous. Its hard to blame him, she's talented, classy, and extremely gorgeous.

So Lermontov fires Cramer, and Vicky is upset and leaves the company, goes with him and they get married. But she stops dancing, because her husband is focussing on his career. Its very romantic, but this is a girl who has said that dancing is her life, and that she dances because she must. She apparently goes to class every day, and always keeps up her form - you can tell she still wants to dance, and its heart breaking for her that she cannot.
Lermontov meets Vicky again later, almost by chance, and brings all this up, and begs her to dance again, promising he will make her an amazing dancer and a massive star. Cramer is in London, at the premier of his opera, but he leaves to come and find Vicky, and is gutted to find her in a dressing room, minutes away from the opening scene of the Red Shoes. She says she loves him, he says she loves dancing more. She realises he's right. Cramer leaves, Lermontov does a victory dance. Then she realises she was wrong, and jumps off a cliff into the path of a train. Funnily enough she is not instantly killed but survives long enough to tell her beloved to take off her red shoes.

The three leads were all very well done - each character made sense, and their interactions were not predictable but they were believable (apart from the train thing, and the one moment where Vicky gets up in the middle of the night and her slippers have high heels - or maybe that was just a fashion thing...) I love films from this era as everyone is so elegant and charming, and I adore the way everyone talks to each other.

The ballet in this film is very different to modern ballet. They do all the same steps and things, but here it seems less extreme, and tortuous. Here, all the ballet dancers look like they are having fun. In other ballets and ballet films that I have seen, which were more modern, it always seemed like a chore. The dancers spend every second minute telling you its all worth it because they love dancing, but usually I'm not sure I believe them. In this, however, Vicky really does seem to love what she does, and in the end, its not the pressure of dancing that causes her problem. No one ever tells her she's not doing well enough or that she's easily replaceable. The problems in this film stem from the relationships among her and Craster and Lermontov. All in all, I would have to say that anyone who wants to watch a film about ballet, to be encouraged to do it, then they should watch this, and not Black Swan. It might be older, but there's more dancing in this, Moira Shearer is a professional dancer, the story line is nicer, and the leading lady is a red-head.

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