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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Dance, ballerina, dance.

The Red Shoes (1948) on IMDb

Plot Overview

At the opening of the ballet “Heart of Fire,” some students in the balcony debate whether it's more worth­while to come to see the dancing or hear the music. Music major Julian Craster (Marius Goring) comes to hear the music of Andrew Palmer (Austin Trevor) “our professor at the academy,” but when he hears his own pieces (“he lifted it”), he storms out and writes a letter of complaint to impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). Socialite Lady Neston (Irene Browne) is also courting his favor to get him to see her niece Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) dance. Against odds the boy and the girl get their foot in the door and hitching their stars to Lermontov both proceed towards greatness.

While working on the ballet “The Red Shoes,” a story of a pair of mystical shoes that compel their wearer to dance compul­sively, they become off­stage, “Romeo Craster & Juliet Page,” a couple whose end may be as tragic as Shakespeare's characters should the relent­less and envious Lermontov entice the redhead ballerina into letting her life imitate art.


Let's use the perspective of sociologist Bennet Berger (66–7):

The literary critic Malcolm Cowley wrote Exile's Return, a book about the experience of American literary expatriates in Europe in the 1920's. In it he treats to some extent the history of bohemian­ism, starting back in the middle of the 19th century with that important document of bohemian history, Henry Murger's Scenes of Bohemian Life. By 1920, Cowley says, bohemia had a relatively formal doctrine, “a system of ideas that could be roughly summarized as follows”:

#7 “The idea of psychological adjustment.—We are unhappy because ... we are repressed.” To Cowley, the then-contemporary version of the doctrine prescribed that repression could and should be overcome by Freudian analysis, or by the mystic qualities of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff's psycho-physical disciplining, or by a daily dose of thyroid. Today, repression may be up-tightness or “game reality,” and it is not Freud but Reich, not thyroid but LSD, not Gurdjieff but yoga, I Ching, The Book of the Dead, or some other meditational means of transcending the realities that hang one up.

Now compare that with this exhortation from business writer George Kahn: Being a Two-Dimensional Man (18–21)

There is the mistake of being a “lopsided” man, a two- dimensional individual who never develops his true potential for living. He is not a whole man. His two activities are working and sustaining life. As a person, he is fast beating a path to mediocrity.

You have seen this man. He has never achieved a proper balance among work, play, love, and spiritual values. He has never gotten beyond his own narrow enclosure, even to the extent of tasting a new dish. A suggestion that he develop an avocation draws only a blank stare. He is a fractional man.

All Lermontov wants his protegees to do is go to bed early, eat alone in his office, forswear out­side interests—especially romantic ones—, and devote them­selves single-mindedly to their art. “You can­not have it both ways,” he says.

Cowley's “idea of psychological adjustment” finds similar expression in (Job 39:9-12), “Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? Or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? Or wilt thou leave thy labor to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?” This “unicorn” was a kind of untamable kine in the region of Palestine that could not be domesticated and worked even if one started with a calf. I believe the idea here is that we cannot harness our need of some escape for the sake of bringing happiness by our work alone. Vicky, with­out some out­side interest (in particular, love), was unable to produce for her master.

Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes about a pair of enchanted crimson ballet slippers, upon which this movie was based, holds the same time­less warning about singular devotion to one's art (or work.)

Describing a potential part for retired dancer Irina Boronskaja (Ludmilla Tcherina), Lermontov says it is, “light, all gaiety, fire,” this to win her back from her matri­monial bliss of staying in bed, eating candy, and partying. Gay dancing to super­sede gay marriage, in other words. “The Red Shoes” is gay apparel in its own right, so I suppose we could make a pun and say this movie is about gay apparel vs. gay marriage. Since the movie came out in 1948 the word gay has come to be mostly associated with homo­sexuals, but the dyad “gay apparel” retains its historical sense of bright colorful clothing on account of the Xmas song, “Deck the Halls,” in which we now don our gay apparel, and the dyad “gay marriage” retains its original happy sense because nobody would have thought of connecting homo-gay to marriage until the courts got a hold of it in 2003, but all they did was incorporate same-sex couples into marriage. The term gay is too vague to use in a legal frame­work, leaving us to our own devices. Most states including mine voted against it. To be meaning married homo­sexuals one would have to contextualize it by saying, “gay and lesbian marriage” or else use another term for homos, most of which are built-in puns in their own right.

Production Values

The Red Shoes” (1948) is based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen about a little girl 'Karen' who dances her­self to death after putting on a pair of magic red shoes. It was directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Press­burger, who also wrote the screen­play, with additional dialogue by Keith Winter. It stars Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, and Moira Shearer. It's got a near perfect cast whose acting is stylized and emotive, even hammy, but it works.

In 1948 it's not rated, but it should be okay for general audiences. There's no drugs except for some party champagne and the married couple sleep in twin beds. It won the Oscars for Best Art Direction–Set Decoration and for Brian Easdale Best Music. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Film Editing and Best Writing for Pressburger. It was nominated the BAFTA for Best British Film and won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Score. Filmed in glorious Techni­color, bringing out intense, deeply saturated uber-colors, with nuances of tone although digital projection blunts the color values. The look of the picture was designed around the lead red­head's hair. To nail the dynamics, the action followed a story­board consisting of 100 oil paintings. The editing was faultless.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This picture inspired a lot of future dancers. At its heart is a fifteen minute opera, the length they figured a general audience would sit still for. Though not technically a musical, it contained a lot of music. It's well paced and the plot is simplicity itself. It should appeal to audiences young and old. It seems time­less rather than dated. See it if it appeals to you.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture was cited from the King James Version, Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Print.

Berger, Bennet. “Hippie Morality – More Old Than New,” From Transaction/Society magazine, reprinted in John Gagnon & William Simon, The Sexual Scene. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1973. Print.

Kahn, George. The 36 Biggest Mistakes Salesmen Make and How to Correct Them. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1968. Print.