The Red Shoes (1948) Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. With Moira Shearer, Marius Goring and Anton Walbrook.
Adapted for the silver screen from the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and filmed in glorious Technicolor, The Red Shoes stars Moira Shearer as a young, talented prima ballerina fighting to keep her dreams alive amid a tangle of infatuation by the seductive lure of her own ambition, and the threat of sacrificing love in the real world.
Essentially a story within a story, Powell and Pressburger, with the help of poetic cinematography by Jack Cardiff, captivating choreography, beautiful costumes, a diamond of a script and a sense of authenticity gained through the casting of a real ballet dancer, in Shearer, achieve a level of greatness untouched by the passage of time.
Any fans of Black Swan, Darren Aranofsky’s dark-hearted tale of the psychological strain of performing ballet at the top, will see more than a few roots of influence in this haunting, yet magically vibrant story of a woman torn between two worlds.
In a stroke of pure genius, Powell and Pressburger somehow capture the otherworldly sense of being at the theatre, witnessing three acts of an epic ballet, as the Red Shoes sequence explodes into a firework display of hypnotic colour, music and dance, steadily giving way to a much darker and more sinister tale of the destructive power of obsession.
In the central role, Moira Shearer is a wonder. Not only does her presence in the film as a trained ballet dancer afford it a firm grip on the world it represents, she goes one further with a sure, yet beautifully naive acting performance.
My breath was fully taken by this remarkable film. Timeless, because of its invention and boldness. Daring, because of its dramatic, foreboding approach to depicting the dark side of a world responsible for providing such inspirational joy. They really don’t make them like this any more. And they never will again. 5/5