Cast: Oleg Ivenko, Adele Exarchopoulos, Chulpan Khamatova, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Well, here we have a movie about two things I know next to nothing about; Russian culture and ballet. Fiennes’ newest attempt as a director shows us the tensions of the Cold War wrapped in the artistry and intensity of an incredibly demanding field. Although I have no real background in the artistic piece of this movie, you could have Fiennes direct a movie about the way grass grows and it will still have my attention. Through a clear direction and an impressive leading performance by Ivenko, The White Crow clearly captures the feeling and tension of an era while using the characters to show us empathy over the course of the 127 minute runtime.
The film follows Rudolf Nureyev (Ivenko), a rural Soviet ballet dancer who has a love, passion, and understanding of the artform to make it his career. As he progresses in his craft, he is eventually invited to join the Kirov Ballet and starts to perform shows throughout the rest of Europe as he is recognized as one of the best dancers in the world. Now having access to a non-Soviet world for the first time in his life, Rudolf must balance his ballet career with the influences of Western civilization and try to make the decisions that are best for him and his generally rebellious nature. As you may be able to figure out by that description, this movie essentially has two separate parts that contrast each other magnificently. The first would obviously be the story of Rudolf’s path into ballet and how he eventually became one of the most prolific artists of his generation. This portion isn’t exactly my favorite as I have very little familiarity with the subject matter, but just looking at the movie in these scenes is enough to please most audiences. The movie plays out like a great number in a ballet and you can tell just how much this movie means to Fiennes exclusively by the way it looks. The other part, which I enjoyed significantly more, is the personal and political struggle that Rudolf goes through in France. He’s never experienced this type of liberation before and as a character who openly despises authority, it helps him shape his future and determine what he wants to do moving forward. This portion is much more interesting and helps shape the movie into a much more personal and relatable narrative. We all have our true nature and desires that we need to live out and The White Crow shows exactly what that looks like for Rudolf. The rise and fail from pure fear to immense adulation of Rudolf’s life, Fiennes has taken a subject matter from an obscure, narrow field and made it accessible to everyone and allowing them to be exposed to a world that they may not have known before. While the jumping from English to Russian to French can be confusing, everything else helps The White Crow prove its point and establish the themes needed to make a thoughtful yet entertaining movie.
Overall, there’s a relatively niche audience for a movie like The White Crow, but those in that audience should be able to enjoy the majority of what Fiennes made for us here. For those outside that circle, the movie may come off as unrelatable at first, but as it progresses the human elements that affect all of us become more present and digestible for the audience. Fiennes has made a career out of his range and his ability to showcase various types of emotions when the need arises, and with The White Crow he continues to do so yet again.
Overall Score: 7.5/10