The Disciplined Dancer

The White Crow

Director: Ralph Fiennes

Cast: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Adele Exarchopoulos, Raphael Personnaz, Chulpan Khamatova, Zach Avery

Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, Schindler’s List) directs this elegant ballet biopic of acclaimed Russian male dancer Rudolph Nureyev who defected to France in 1961.

Oleg Ivenko plays the volatile but supremely talented ballet dancer Nureyev who dreams only of dancing in the West. This opportunity arises when the Kirov ballet company does a tour to Paris in London in 1961. While in Paris, Nureyev desperately tries to escape the surveillance of the repressive soviet regime who jealously watch the Kirov’s Ballet’s every move.

The Leningrad Ballet company comes out of a bleak soviet society under the rule of Krushev to the glamour of Paris in the early 1960’s where a handful of Soviet ballet dancers led by the audacious Nureyev socializes with French ballerina’s and intellectuals led by Clara Saint, wonderfully played by Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Colour).

With a screenplay by Oscar nominated screenwriter David Hare (The Hours, The Reader) based upon Julie Kavanaugh’s book Rudolf Nureyev: A Life, The White Crow is mostly subtitled with dialogue in Russian and French and is strictly for ballet fans.

The White Crow could have been edited slightly and while the transformation plot is elegantly told, the acting by the mostly Russian and French cast is extremely good and the tension in the film is heightened during the dramatic defection that Rudolf Nureyev does at a Paris airport filmed in extreme close up with Fiennes behind the camera taking control of the diplomatic action brilliantly.

There are some exquisite ballet sequences in The White Crow but what I loved about this film was its depiction of the transformation of Rudolf Nureyev from a shy Soviet peasant boy into one of the most audacious and beautifully talented male ballet dancers of the 20th century, a role that Oleg Ivenko pulls off beautifully highlighting his artistic volatility, his discipline as a dancer and his unyielding ambition, in which he had to sacrifice his country and family to achieve international stardom, something Nureyev was determined to achieve.

The White Crow subtly hints at Nureyev’s homosexuality but in an effortlessly way especially his love affair with East German dancer Teja Kremke played with stark beauty by German actor Louis Hofmann (Red Sparrow). French rising star Raphael Personnaz (Anna Karenina) also stars as one of the French male ballet dancers Pierre Lacotte who plays a crucial role in Nureyev’s defection to the West.

If you love ballet and would like to learn more about the early life of Rudolf Nureyev then this film is highly recommended. The White Crow gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 will appeal to a niche audience. An elegant biopic without any of the usual Hollywood flashiness.

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