A promising young ballerina is forced to choose between
the man she loves and the pursuit of a prosperous career.
The Red Shoes (1948)
Written and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Starring Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Robert Helpmann, Léonide Massine, Albert Bassermann, Esmond Knight
Based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen
Oscar Wins - Best Art Direction, Best Original Score (Brian Easdale)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Original Story,
Best Film Editing
The Red Shoes is a gorgeous film with realistic characters, and it says more than I expected from a film made during the 1940's. In the United States from 1934 to 1968, films were trimmed substantially if they contained any "offensive" material. This included nudity, violence, bad language, interracial couples, and homosexuals. They called it the Hays Code, and it set American culture back decades. In England, this wasn't even considered, and films like The Red Shoes were made. It's a film that highlights the delicate balance between love and obsession, using the art of ballet to emphasize our heroine's struggle.
At the center of our story is brilliant ballet producer Boris Lermontov (Walbrook). He's a heartless, unfeeling, ogre of a man who is obsessed with molding good dancers into great ones. When he encounters Vicky Page (Shearer), he believes he has found his muse. He pairs Vicky with a young budding composer named Julian Craster (Goring), and together Vicky and Julian make incredible music together, notably a ballet called The Red Shoes. Partnership turns to romance, and Boris won't have it. He makes an impulsive and irrational decision that inevitably leads to tragedy. It's a brutal finale that makes the entire cast reflect on their lives working for a madman, and even Boris himself sheds a tear. I won't spoil it because it really is a shocker.
The Red Shoes has stood the test of time because of its incredibly choreography and beautiful score, not to mention the fantastic performances. The whole film uses the tropes of a fairy tale to craft an engaging drama that unfolds like the ballet of the title. A woman chooses dancing and it consumes her entire life, forcing her to make a choice between happiness and success. Awfully relatable, I think.