Saw this little seen film on Talking Pictures some weeks ago, in memory of Ronald Pickup who had died a couple of days before. There are a lot more interest points too about 'Nijinsky'. Am a massive classical music and ballet enthusiast, have been since six in regard to the latter (it's been lifelong with the former) when seeing 'Swan Lake' for the first time. The characters are also real life figures (not just Vaslav Nijinsky, but also Sergei Diaghliev and Igor Stravinsky), and the cast is an immensely talented one.
'Nijinsky' struck me as very interesting and generally well done. It is far from perfect (with a few major debits) and is far more successful in its depiction of the ballet world, the classical music and ballet and how influential it was back in the day than the biographical elements and the aspect that would have made it a brave film. Did though appreciate what 'Nijinsky' tried to do, and it is a shame that it is seen so little and only had a very mixed critical reception as it is better than that. Even if it did fall short of its full potential.
There are many things worth noting here in 'Nijinsky'. It is a beautiful looking film for one, the designers did their homework when it came to the handsome costumes in making them true to period. The production design doesn't look overblown or confined, just about opened up enough while not trying to do too much and being sumptuous and unforgiving. The photography likewise doesn't resort to gimmicks, that would have swamped and/or cheapened things, or look too stage-bound, anybody who loves endearingly old-fashioned period dramas will find that 'Nijinsky' reminds them of those. Only at the clumsily edited end of "Le Spectre De La Rose" does it disappoint.
Cannot say anything wrong about the music, all classical and ranging from Weber to Stravinsky, which is nothing short of outstanding and beautifully performed and used with some of the most ferocious uses of any Stravinsky piece on film. Debussy on film has seldom been more luminously seductive as well. The ferociousness of the Stravinsky is particularly evident in a truly harrowing sequence when "Rite of Spring" is rehearsed and the counting is all over the place, a sequence that might make one think twice about taking on ballet. Nor can be choreography or dancing be faulted, done how it would have been performed at the time, particularly good in the sensual choreography of "L'Apres Midi D'Un Faune" (in a performance that proved to be scandalous). The Rimsky Korsakov is also movingly done.
Enough of the story does intrigue and has a 'The Red Shoes' vibe in the dance sequences and first half. The film also captures very well the glamour and beauty of ballet but also its demanding nature and competitiveness, in a way that is very accurate (two of my sisters were ex-dancers). The character interaction is well done too, especially the tensions in rehearsals. The acting is very good, with Alan Bates in fact being truly excellent as Diaghliev. Making him monstrous but also human. Pickup is wonderfully eccentric as Stravinsky and George De La Pena is very committed in his portrayal of Nijinksy.
Unfortunately though, 'Nijinsky' could have been better than it was. Nijinsky's mental state and madness that features prominently later could have gone into much more depth, that did lack intensity and should have been a lot more harrowing and moving than it was. Also thought it skated over. More disappointing was the relationship between Nijinsky and Diaghliev, Bates and De La Pena have the chemistry but the film should have been a lot bolder in depicting this relationship. The representation here was so tame and cautious that one would not think that that would have been a shock, at a time where homosexuality was even more negatively thought of than it is now.
Most of the performances are very good, with the exception of Leslie Browne. For my tastes, she was very bland in a role that seemed underwritten. Some of the pace seemed over-deliberate.
In conclusion, interesting and underseen but for a film with a couple of controversial events it did feel too careful. 6/10.
Biography / Drama / Music
Biography / Drama / Music
Set in the early 1910s at a time of passionate artistic experimentalism, and based on biographical fact, this is the story of Vaslav Nijinsky, the young and brilliant, but headstrong premier ballet dancer and aspiring choreographer of the Ballets Russes. The company is managed by the famous Sergei Diaghilev, a controlling and fiercely possessive impresario. The increasing tension between these powerful egos, exacerbated by homosexual desire and jealousy, becomes triangular when the young ballerina Romola de Pulsky determinedly attempts to draw the increasingly mentally unstable Nijinsky away from Diaghilev. —Eric Wees
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
January 14, 2022 at 03:12 PM