Written by: Hans Christian Andersen (fairy tale), Emeric Pressburger (original screenplay), Keith Winter (additional dialogue), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (written by)
Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
A young ballet dancer is torn between her profession and the man she loves.
I love movies that explore the sacrifices necessary for your craft. The recurring question for ballet dancer Vicky is, "Do you want to live or dance?" She struggles to become a dancer, but success isn't without consequences. She's forced to choose between her boyfriend or ballet. The movie concludes you can't do both.
It's imaginative and colorful with a solid story. Do you choose to live life in the real world or create fantasies on stage?
To be from 1948, the color and detail is impressive. This film and it's vibrant colors were a big influence on Martin Scorsese. I have to wonder if this movie at least in part served as inspiration for Black Swan (2010).
This depicts the shared plight of a fledgling composer, Julian, and dancer, Vicky. They both work through the ranks, with Vicky becoming lead dancer and Julian getting the chance to compose the ballet, The Red Shoes. While disagreeing artistically, they fall for each other.
In the middle of the movie we see the ballet. It's a surreal experience mixing the performance with an imaginative production that goes beyond the physical world. It's the power of art to transfer you to a magical world. As Julian told Vicky, he wants her to feel the music so that her performance conveys the location. The music transforms our experience too as Vicky and we literally experience the story. Even for us, this is more than ballet.
I found the sequence bewildering at first. This had seemed like such a grounded movie, but then I realized the movie is doing exactly what it said. Art is a transformative experience, and the movie crosses the line where props and sets become real objects and places.
The ballet is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story where a girl unwitting buys red shoes from an evil shoemaker. Once she puts the shoes on, they cause her to dance and she can't stop. She ventures through the underworld and back until she arrives at a church, dying of exhaustion.
The head of the ballet company, Lermontov, develops feelings for Vicky, becoming jealous of Vicky and Julian. Julian is on the outs and if he wants to get any work he has to leave. They move to London, and she resigns herself to dancing in lesser productions, knowing she's giving up potential success. Did she choose the right balance between art and life?
While Lermontov had refused to stage The Red Shoes ballet with any other dancer, he convinces Vicky to perform. Ballet and her life outside it collide.
The actual story begins to mirror The Red Shoes ballet. It's a striking conclusion as art becomes life.