Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Red Shoes (1948) - ★★★★★

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Writers: Hans Christian Andersen (fairytale), Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell (screenplay)
Stars: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Esmond Knight, Robert Helpmann

The Red Shoes is one of the most spectacular films I've ever seen. It turned me (someone who has never found ballet all that interesting) into a huge fan of the art. There are sequences in this film that are so magical... so exquisite... that they just take my breath away. This is a film that has everything a true fan of cinema could possibly want, from groundbreaking special effects, to mesmerising choreography, to the gorgeous score by Brian Easdale, and of course, the unforgettable performances by Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook. It is a film that is way before its time. It's the kind of film that puts modern cinema to shame. I've never missed the golden age of cinema more than now, and it is because The Red Shoes is such a perfect display of beauty and cinematic mastery. Not only is it one of the best movies of its genre, it's one of the greatest movies of all time.

The world famous ballet writer/creator, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), has written a new ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairytale, The Red Shoes. Meanwhile, the young Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) wants nothing more than to be a prima ballerina, because to her "to dance is to live." Lermontov has also hired an up and coming composer, Julian Craster (Marius Goring), to compose the music to The Red Shoes. The three get involved in a spiral of romance, drama, jealousy, and dancing in this suspenseful, beautiful tale. 

Without a doubt, the thing that will always stay in my mind about The Red Shoes is the unbelievable ballet that is performed throughout the second act of the film. I gasped, I cheered, and I even flailed my arms in excitement. It was one of the most beautiful, thrilling sequences I've ever seen. Moira Page and Robert Helpmann are such masterful dancers, which made it all the more amazing. Besides the dancers themselves, the set-production, special effects, and music that accompanied this ballet were indescribably good. I cannot praise Powell and Pressburger enough for creating what I consider to be one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history. I didn't know that such masterful special effects existed back in the 1940s. If anything, this sequence made me long for true art to come back to the big screen. 

Moira Shearer gave one of the most memorable performances I've ever seen as an ambitious, loveable, up and coming ballet dancer. While her dancing was exquisite, her dramatic performance out-shined it in my opinion. I was in awe of the conflict that was within Victoria, for in the end, she was left with an ultimatum that would drastically hurt her life no matter what she did. The ferocity in her eyes, and the sincere portrayal of her character, was just flawless.

Anton Walbrook was the true star of the film. He played a tyrant of the ballet world, who was talented, conceited, and an extremely selfish man that used Victoria Page as his muse. Walbrook gave one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. The venom in his spiteful voice could pierce through armour. The jealousy in his fierce eyes stared daggers into all that stared back at him. On top of all this, he also had a certain charm about him that made it almost impossible to hate him. His greatest scene came at the very end, where he announced some devastating news to the audience of the ballet. My father, who doesn't even like movies, said that he was absolutely brilliant.

Marius Goring also gave a stunning performance as the composer 'Craster.'

For every 10 films the movie industry releases nowadays, 5 of them are bad, 4 are mediocre, and 1 (if we're lucky) is great. The Red Shoes made me long for great cinema again. I haven't seen a film such as this in years. The closest modern film to this masterpiece is Black Swan (2010), yet it doesn't come close to being as good as this. I'd give anything to see less mind-numbing action films, or superhero films, which only pander to those looking for explosions and loud noises. How about some true art again? Like dancing, music, touching human portrayals, and magical cinematography? I'm not saying that the movie industry is worse today than it was 65 years ago. What I am saying is that they don't try hard enough to make films that contain real beauty, films that are entertaining without having to rely on computer animation. I just want less superficial, boring action movies, and a wider range of intelligent, gorgeous cinema. 

I honestly can't praise The Red Shoes enough. It stands as a testament to how powerful cinema can truly be. It's so dynamic, so beautiful, and simply unforgettable. It made me realise that Hollywood, and indeed the world, needs to pick up its game and start producing films to this quality again. 


  1. Great review. This is an amazing movie - well before its time.

  2. Good review, and I have to agree. As a big fan of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger I am, this one is my favourite of their films so far. :)

    1. Thanks Jaime, glad you enjoy this film as much as I do :)