[1948.3] The Red Shoes

I will be watching all 5 nominees from 1948 before I move on to the next year. The goal here is to watch them and have an internal discussion among them to try to piece together a “history” of the year. Let’s get to it. 

The Red Shoes is the classic story-within-a-story, but something dissociative separates films regarding ballet from other films involving high art, like opera or classical music. In film, ballet’s been dedicated as a perfect complement of tortured souls. Curiously, though, there’s nothing overtly special or defining about ballet as the saddest art moste potente. But we all can sense that silence and isolation that defines this specific kind of dance.

Isolation, even within a tight-knit group, is inevitable. Only so much time exists daily, and not all of it can be spent in the embrace of a lover or the demands of a career. We all have to eat and sleep and practice general upkeep of our bodies, individually. Ballet, as a solitary/group activity, is a perfect expository foil for the exploration of both the dance itself – its movements and its pauses – and of its dancers – their movements and their pauses. In The Red Shoes, 1948’s masterstroke/Hans Christian Andersen rework, our actors all act silently and swiftly. Their machinations are their own: troupe leader, Boris Lermentov (Anton Walbrook), has his single-minded focus; the players don’t matter, until they do. Consumed by the purity of the dance, Lermentov spies Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), a dancer of some familial wealth, as the one who will dance his masterstroke and pegs Julian Craster (Marius Goring) to jolt the music into something more than fashionable, but less than garish. Together, the ensemble works to create a masterful representation of HCA’s dark fairy tale. Alone, the experience ruins each of them in turn.  Continue reading