Remembering "The Red Shoes"
So you don't think you like ballet, huh?
And - obviously this is a movie about ballet! So, you may be asking yourself, "what am I doing here?" Please read on. . .
Many of us appreciate its beauties and other attributes but for anyone who may be instantly turned off by the idea of ballet, and you know who you are! - before I begin to discuss this movie and its incredible story, beauty, longevity and lasting appeal - by way of encouragement and introduction - let me offer a couple of quotes from admitted non-balletomanes:
"A true measure of a great film is that you love it despite its subject matter and not because of it. I have never been to a ballet, I have no particular desire to go to see a ballet and yet I not only love The Red Shoes but actually believe it is one of the best films ever made. Orson Welles commented many times on how he learnt to make movies by watching 'Stagecoach', not a bad schooling! There are a lot of filmmakers around these days who could learn a lot from 'The Red Shoes'. "
“Every time I watch 'The Red Shoes' I feel like I'm watching a different movie. That's because it effortlessly combines the freedom of a Disney animated feature, the grace of ballet, the inventiveness of 'Citizen Kane' (1941), the truth of a documentary, and the magic of movies. . . .
'The Red Shoes' was made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, otherwise known as the Archers, at the height of their power. They did not -- could not -- make a bad film during the 1940s or the years bookending that decade. But The Red Shoes is something special. More than the other films, it caught on with audiences, and many of us have fallen madly in love with it and treasured it for life. . . .
This enthusiasm is not for a Britney Spears concert. This is for a ballet. I have seen so precious few films that have an explosive, exciting start like that, much less made in the 1940s. The film does eventually slow down, but instead of blasting you in the face, it enchants you and casts a spell over you.
Then there is the color. The Red Shoes uses color like you've never seen. Even the opening title cards (before the banging on the doors) are jaw-dropping in their vibrant beauty. The cinematographer was Jack Cardiff, who was hot off an Oscar win for his last film, Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus (1947). It was almost as if he were challenged to do even more and go even farther.
I'm not a lover of ballet, and I can imagine it would be hard to make yourself watch this film if that's the case. But the dancing here is not boring by any stretch of the imagination. It's like the best stuff from Disney's musical numbers. Don't let ballet scare you from seeing this magnificent motion picture.”
____ by Jeffery M. Anderson
Let me add that in commentaries about The Red Shoes, several of those most involved in the making and the restoration of this classic admitted to knowing zip about ballet when they took it on but the story was so fascinating, they proceeded; and once into it, they learned more to appreciate the art and athletic excellence involved in ballet itself. What these quotes and testimonials tell us is that it's well not to "judge a book by its cover" and to give it a chance to speak for itself. Of course it is a choice.
The spectacular 1948 movie speaks for itself!
More accolades. . .
Now add to all that has been mentioned the drama, the underlying relationships and power struggle, the surreal scenarios, the tragic struggle between two passions to the death, the fierce obsessions, the incredibly lovely music and artistic grandeur, - and surely there has probably never been another film as spectacular, whether or not one really likes ballet, per se. It's much more than just a story about dancing, though it is that, too.
This story touches on basic passionate human drives and what we are willing to do to achieve them, as well as basic human willingness - even determination - to madly believe in seductive illusions and luck. It illustrates how intricate webs of deception are woven and how eagerly one can fall prey. It illustrates, both in the story about ballet and in the ballet itself, how vulnerable we are, especially to those forces which fit our own dreams, hopes and desires and make us follow blindly, even when they turn destructive.
In short, there is a majestic story of the human condition here, and it has been majestically woven into what can only be called "eye and ear candy", making it the classic it was 60 years ago and still works in this brave new era.
In ways, with slightly different scales of measurement, this movie's lasting appeal reminds me of great movies about sports or war, history, period literature, medicine or science, - various themes which - whether or not they are primarily one's interests - are so well woven as to bring the viewer rewards beyond the themes which surpass their genre and which become time-honored masterpieces of story-telling and epic movie-making in categories above and beyond their central subjects.
In The Red Shoes, when the big ballet impressario asks the little ballerina, "Why do you want to dance, Miss Page?" she replies with a question of her own: "Why do you want to live, Mr. Lermontov?". When he, a little shaken at this audacity, replies haltingly out of character, "Because I - er - must." She says, "That's my answer, too."
Note the candle; In the FINIS frame it will be burned down.
My love affair with The Red Shoes
While more experienced film reviewers than I have fully exalted this one, my feelings for it are intense and first-hand. Bear with me as I try to relate from whence they came and how they have followed me.
I was one who fell it love with this movie at sixteen when I first saw it in 1948 when it was making its premier rounds of theaters around the country and when I was away at school in Abilene. It was the year I graduated from High School and started to college. My friend for years, Jean, was able to join me at school, sponsored by my parents that year.
Movie-going was not encouraged at this school, but neither was it taboo, though dancing was! We simply signed out of the dorm and walked from the campus downtown after we'd realized that a movie about ballet was in town. Like many girls, ballet was on a high echelon in our esteem. Luckily we were not questioned about our downtown outing. It was a matinee and therefore raised no doubts since we were back early with only dancing eyes to betray signs of mischief making; if only the dorm mother had been more perceptive or observant, it might have been a different story!
In fact, though, Jean and I were so fond of ballet slippers that we almost always wore them; and not mere street-wear adaptations of their style, but authentic Capezio ballet slippers with the toes pleated underneath, though not with stiffened toes. Still, I could stiffen my own toes and walk around on their tips (with or without slippers) for short periods and distances, which I did frequently. I had no training, of course - there just weren't dance studios near ranches nor in ranch towns. (I also longed to play the harp but was lucky even to get piano lessons, which was another story about my mother's clever ways!)
But I dearly loved movement as well as music and in this, the "instrument" was my own body, so to dance, I simply put on records and moved around in the house, though not on my toes! I never quite recovered from this self-directed method. It took a strong "lead" in a partner to make me coordinate and look good dancing cheek-to-cheek!
I became strong, fluid and attuned to the rhythms and moods of the music. I still love to walk to music, and at our local gym, have been known to practically dance around the track with a portable CD player before the advent of iPod for me! No telling what I'd be if I'd had the chance to study ballet.
When I saw theThe Red Shoes at that Abilene movie theater I was twitching in my seat, feeling myself pirouetting and floating across the stage with Moira Shearer. It's amazing that 60+ years later, I can literally FEEL how I felt then, as well as how sad it was that the movie made its rounds and went into the vaults where movies were stored. I had to remember it vividly, since I never expected to actually get to see it again! It wasn't even the kind of movie shown on late night TV in black and white when TV finally made an appearance. Just as well, it would have been a travesty to air it in B&W! Showings in movie theaters after a movie made its first rounds were rare, if indeed there were any. There was no such thing as DVD or even video tape. Movies were on the reels and a long movie such as this one probably involved many large reels in their big round storage tins. If there were any re-showings over those many years, I missed hearing of and seeing them. So what a joy it was when the team of movie experts, led by Martin Scorcese, restored the film to modern media and I found it on DVD!! I watch it periodically, and for this hub, I've almost learned the script!
I must add that it has taken those 60+ years for maturity and experience to open to me the full realization of so much greater meaning and depth of this story than that of the bedazzled teenager who fell in love with it originally. All I saw then was the magic of dance, the beauty of Moira Shearer - whom I'd loved to be like, - and the love story with its tragic conclusion. I could identify with the students pouring into the upper balcony to see the show. And perhaps I noticed how similar Lermentov was to my sister Harriet in being able to get his way and get others to comply unquestioningly.
Perhaps it even set up a precedent for me to be drawn to strong, charismatic, domineering people, especially when I accepted my position as a baby sister, a student, an apprentice or - eventually - a mate. I didn't question these setups; these were simply relationships I accepted with the mores of that day and in which I was accustomed to gracefully assuming my role. It may seem bizarre and impossible by today's standards that inferior positions were accepted gracefully, but every era has its bizarre twists and implausible standards when viewed in retrospect. And soon there are no survivors to try to supply the first-hand experience of it and, perhaps, make it more understandable. This is a small attempt to clarify mine.
Perhaps seeing the movie at 16 gave me hope that being good at my present role would fit me for ultimately advancing to the next level. It wasn't so much a conscious goal or hope, but it did seem more possible, even likely. But, oh, did I have much to learn! Perhaps if I'd paid more attention to the outcome ...
In that Abilene theater in the fall of 1948, I certainly didn't then see the subtlety of manipulation and of ambition which so easily and often entrap people unawares. But the movie is a study in psychology, human nature and historic patterns. The same sort of relationships exist on football fields, in institutions of higher learning, in prisons, in boardrooms, offices, corporations, religious hierarchies and governments, as well as in families and social situations. People comprise all these "playing" fields, playing the roles in them. In order to successfully navigate any of them, understanding people with clarity is essential, especially oneself.
It's seldom that one movie brings together so many facets and pieces of the puzzles that exist in every human enterprise. For those not especially involved in the field of ballet, perhaps the facets and pieces illustrated in The Red Shoes will be easier to identify and won't require 60 years to assimilate!
Of course part of its overall appeal is that the ballet's story, built around its theme of an enchanting tale, The Red Shoes, by Hans Christian Anderson, was incorporated and adapted by an inspired team of movie-makers, led by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who together wrote, produced and directed it. They were masters of movies featuring mesmerizing fantasy - film-noir, gripping stories. Known as The Archers, this innovative team made such movies as Black Narcissus the year before The Red Shoes - and many others which won high regard.
And so, for me, having long been entranced with the idea of dancing, it was like a silent wish fulfilled, stepping into this gloriously, brilliantly, dazzlingly Technicolored story, The Red Shoes! Technicolor itself was "bigger than life" - making the ordinary seem extraordinary. But this was no ordinary film about an ordinary story or ordinary people.
And COLOR was an actor in the film. Color and light have always been my passions, too. I think what I love so about art on a computer is that it has the element of light as a "given". So the vivid colors in this movie - of the characters' eyes, the stage makeup and costumes, the props - and most of all - the red shoes themselves - are exquisitely part of the story as it unfolds. As much as I like bright, vivid colors, I also love muted, subtle colors, and this movie wisely has balance of both.
The role of color here is probably not unlike bright athletic team colors and mascots, or horses' owner's colors at the Derby - or, for that matter, matadors' capes and kings' and queens' colors and flags of countries. Color is a giant player in life. And this is no exception!
Of course, a professional dancer is physically as well trained, toned, conditioned, fit and rigorous as any athlete and his or her mind is as technically quick and honed as a martial artist's. Reaction without thinking means being all of this. Added to those demanding qualifications which also apply to an NFL, NBA or PGA athlete, a dancer must also possess deep understanding and mastery of music, (which is a form of Physics), grace, poise, art and performance. It's a challenging discipline, not one for "sissies" in the least. Appreciating it as a spectator requires at least as much insight and enthusiasm as that needed by any sports spectator. Living among avid sports enthusiasts, I have ample occasion to observe their dedication to detail, their sensitivity to the most subtle indicators and their disdain for the uninformed, especially if one such creature happens to make an uninformed comment about a play or - worse - wins the office football lottery by "dumb luck"! :-)
Cast of Characters
Moira Shearer, the dancer who plays Miss Page, called Vicky, was becoming the prima ballerina of the London ballet company in which she danced and strenuously resisted the thought of taking a leave of absence in order to film this movie. In fact, it took several years of coaxing to persuade her to make the movie and she finally simply gave in to end the pleading. Making The Red Shoes would make her name memorable, but it also curtailed her regular dancing career. Other dancers were too intimidated and surely, so were dance directors. However, it's told that she was the antithesis of haughtiness on the set, being natural and even offering to fetch tea for others and making no prima ballerina demands of her own.
The ballet company in the story is the Ballet Lermentov, and its founder and iron-fisted ruler is Boris Lermentov, played by Austrian actor, Anton Walbrook. All of the dancers - in fact all of the musicians in the movie - are real-life professionals in their fields; some are virtuosos.
Léonide Massine, was a Ballets Russes dancer and choreographer and also Diaghilev’s protégé in the wake of Nijinsky’s departure. Like Shearer, Massine had never acted before, but one would never guess it from his exceptionally skillful performance as the antic Grischa Ljubov, who is as warm as Boris Lermontov is cold. In the Red Shoes ballet, he plays the shoemaker (a role the film credits him with creating), the weird, long-haired figure who lures the girl into his shop to take the footwear that will both fulfill her dreams and end her life. That Lermontov casts the cheery Grischa in this role is downright diabolical.
Lermentov does seem diabolical much of the time as he seems to use the dancers as a master puppeteer uses his puppets. His word is law and his cold heart is relentless, choosing to ignore the feelings of the heart and the inklings of the flesh. It's not enough that he sets himself high above such things, but he demands it of his puppets, as well, and brooks no exceptions, including the troupe's prima ballerina, Irina Boronskaja.
Boronskaja, whom Vicky will replace at Ballet Lermentov in the story, is played by dancer/actress Ludmilla Tchérina. As prima ballerinas do, she gets all the major parts in the ballet stories produced by the company and has an almost free hand with time schedules and demands on the staff and other musicians, even, at times, on Lermentov himself. The unforgivable, however, occurs when she announces her upcoming marriage. Lermentov demands that his prima ballerina have only one passion, to dance with Ballet Lermentov. There is no leeway. In her first scene, Irina has arrived late (as usual) for rehearsal, simply walking into the theater, carrying herself in such a way that proclaims the instinctive glamour of the ballet world. That aura is carried a step further by Robert Helpmann, who plays Ivan Boleslawsky, a principle male dancer with the troupe. Helpmann also choreographed the dramatic namesake ballet, The Red Shoes for the movie.
When we first see Julian Craster, it is as one of the multitude of eager students crowding into Covert Garden to see the ballet Heart of Fire. In a later scene, as he's trying to get past the security desk and is rescued by Irina, it's as yet unknown that this young composer, played by Marius Goring, will write the music for the namesake ballet and become intimately involved with our heroine, Vicky. Our first iinauspicious acquaintance with his genius was when he and his fellow students realize that the score for Heart of Fire was his and that their Professor Palmer stole it and claimed it as his own with his own title. It was Julian's angry letter to Lermentov complaining about the theft of his score which brought him in contact with the great man and opened up the career opportunities. The professor also plays a part in getting Vicky to Lermentov's attention, but other than that, he is a minor player in the story and fades away after the scene at Vicky's aunt's party at which she meets the mighty man and shakes him up a bit.
Others in supportive roles throughout the movie are:
New members soon to be admitted into the troupe.
And so -Boris Lermentov meets Victoria Page and Julian Craster
Our heroine and hero and the impressario meet at about the same time, though each in entirely different circumstances. Vicky's aunt, a patron of the arts, has arranged a party and invited Boris. He was urged by a Professor Palmer, who happens to be Julian's music professor. As mentioned above, hanky panky is involved there, because the good prof has stolen a work written by Julian which was debuting at the very presentation in which these characters are all present.
Julian rashly writes Lermontov the letter complaining about the theft, but goes the next morning to try to retrieve it unopened, without success. Boris has already read it. From this meeting, an arrangement develops, though, in which Julian becomes the orchestra trainer for the Lermentov Ballet Company and so begins a creative career.
Meanwhile the "uptown" after-the-show party hosted by Vicky's aunt, which is a ruse to get Boris to see Vicky dance is in progress. But when Boris gets word of the plan, he squelches it and heads to the party's bar for a champagne cocktail. He doesn't want to be invited to a party and find himself at an audition. Vicky happens alongside him and orders the same. He is instantly lit up by her beauty and strikes up a conversation about how fortunate they were to be spared the "horror" of some amateur dancing. She immediately informs him that she is "that horror". He's properly embarrassed and she's in good position when he asks her why she wants to dance. The rest is history and he invites her to come to the set the next day.
As the picture shows, in order to see what she can really do, Boris goes talent scouting where she is the main dancer giving an impressive performance on stage at a small theater, leading to his approval for her to dance when she appears on the set, at the same time. as Julian is there to start coaching the orchestra. But both of them are given the Lermentov cold shoulder when they attempt to approach him for acknowledgement, though he is opening doors for them by approving Vicky to join the troupe and soon handing Julian his ticket to advancement: rewriting the score for The Red Shoes.
Vicky rehearses with troupe; is discouraged; Boris peps her up.
Trying to Have it Both Ways
Needless to say, his rigors are easier for him to demand of them than for his puppets to fulfill. Even beyond the ballet fantasy, real life captures Vicky and Julian in real love with an outcome surpassing that of the tragic ballet, in the act of falling into love's clutches of temptation in spite of Lermentov's rule leads Vicky to real tragedy and Julian to real loss.
“You cannot have it both ways,” Lermontov tells Grischa, meaning for Vicky to overhear. “The dancer who relies on the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer. Never.” He refers to Irina Boronskaja, who had just announced to the company that she was leaving to get married, then looked beyond the happy circle of dancers joining in her joy for Lermontov's response, but finds he has quickly left the room upon hearing the happy news. “He has no heart, that man,” says poor Irina poignantly. Of course, he has one, but keeps it well hidden. We detect the depths of his emotions in the picture of Lermontov sitting in his darkened office, brooding.
Or is he merely bemoaning the loss of his prima ballerina, whom, we may be sure, he takes credit for creating!
But - aha! He's found her replacement already. When he invites Vicky to join on the world tour and at the train boarding, Boronskaja approaches him on the concourse. He brushes past her with merely, "Adieu". She stays behind.
He can't, won't even extend his regards. She ceases to exist for him.
Enter Victoria Page as new Prima Ballerina
Her spotlight appears!
The Plot Thickens
Our anticipation intensifies and grips us from the first mention of the story line as Lermontov relates it to Julian while assigning him the editing task of the score of the ballet which is in Lermentov's possession but is not to his satisfaction. Through a series of events, Julian is assigned complete rewriting of the ballet, which he'd done on his own even before being assigned. He's expected to give his full time and attention to the task of dressing it up with all parts for the orchestra.
Lermontov explains to him: “The ballet of The Red Shoes is from a fairy tale by Hans Andersen. It is the story of a girl who’s devoured by an ambition to attend a dance in a pair of red shoes. She gets the shoes, goes to the dance. At first, all goes well and she’s very happy. At the end of the evening, she gets tired and wants to go home. But the red shoes are not tired. In fact, the red shoes are never tired. They dance her out into the streets. They dance her over the mountains and valleys, through fields and forests, through night and day. Time rushes by. Love rushes by. Life rushes by. But the red shoes dance on.”
“What happens in the end?” asks Julian. “Oh, in the end, she dies,” says Lermontov, with indifference to the anguish of the poor dancer in the story, which brings to light, once more, his attitude toward human emotions at the same time as it brings again into question whether we may have stumbled into the den of the Prince of Darkness himself!
The pivotal moment in the ballet is electric, built by a crescendo of obsessed dancing and hallucinogenic imagery in which the girl is exhausted, but the shoes compel her to keep dancing. The other partygoers leave, still she dances. Her white frock becomes tattered and stained. Her face is no longer joyous. Her delight has given way to terrible dispair. No one is there to help her; no one can help her. The shoemaker reappears, gloating over her predicament, waiting to rescue the red shoes to tempt the next innocent who comes his way. The outcome is inevitable.
Bear in mind that this movie was over half a century before "Avatar" and others of today's freaky fantasy genre, yetThe Red Shoes managed to combine the evil and gruesome with the enchanting and beautiful with human techniques and with an ease and grace which may never be incorporated digitally. There is room for both, but let us never forget to honor and enjoy the earlier skills of film makers whose results rested less on technology and more on personal ingenious skill and artistry.
Next, Vicky is summoned and given the lead role in new ballet. She's amazed as she receives her orders, as well, the first bing to abandon her party plans for that evening and go straight to bed, in order to be fresh for the early morning rehearsal.
During the night, though, both Julian and Vicky are too excited to sleep and have both gone out to the veranda overlooking Monte Carlo. The train happens to pass by below this veranda as they compare notes. A friend - collaborator relationship begins, since their projects are mutually allied. Soon Boris has them set up even more closely. She is to take all her meals in a room where he is to be playing the music for the ballet on the grand piano. He tries to give her his vision of birds and clouds flying but to her, just mastering the techniques of getting off the ground at all dominate and that her only. He assures her that his music will pull her through it when she admits that her only vision during the presentation will be a wall to separate her from the audience. They share some disagreements during rehearsals about tempo, which she claims is too fast, but on opening night he tells her to dance whatever tempo she likes; he'll follow it.
This is the sort of perception that, I can assure you, wins a girl's heart! It hints that Vicky and Julian's relationship is developing past the collaborators stage, though Lermentov doesn't realize till an accidental event brings it to his notice, which marks the beginnng of disaster. Bear in mind his attitude toward human love and emotions.
Vicky gets the part in Julian's new ballet!
Vicky becomes one with the girl in the ballet
She covets the red shoes! She is obsessed!
The shoes are overwhelming her ability to tell fact from fiction!
This psychodrama goes beyond psycho, adding the strong physical elements of dance - of the most demanding kind. Vicky's body drives her mind and the shoes drive her body. The poor child is caught in a terrible, inescapable trap.
But at first, she's enthralled. She so wants the red shoes for the party and the little shoemaker lures her to desire them more and more.
She resists - but as they distract her again and again the shoemaker entices her and alternately rejects and abandons her until she gives in to her desire.
When finally he sets them upright on the stage, she rushes into them - and magically, they are on, tied and dancing to The Red Shoes theme music Julian has written! At first the dancing feels effortless. She happily dances everywhere - with the party goers, up and down the streets and surrounding fields. But as she returns again and again - looking for the shoemaker, who seems to be hiding, the compelling need to keep dancing overtakes her joy.
Soon she's "seeing things' - Her Julian - the orchestra leader - comes onstage and she dances with him - in her imagination - till he becomes Lermentov and then the entire audience becomes the sea. She is so confused - and so weary.
When all the others have left the party and the shoes are still "partying" - she tries to quit. Her mother reaches out of her door to try to grab her hand - but the shoes move her away from her mother's reach, Her white dress is tattered and soiled - but the shoes are still bright and sleek, dancing and dancing endlessly. She's beside herself.
The breeze blows a castoff newspaper around and it seems to be dancing - she takes hold of it like a partner - and it turns into her partner briefly.
She collapses on the church stair, but the shoes are pulling her to rise and continue dancing as the shoemaker appears and hands her a knife to cut them off. but when she raises the knife, it becomes a leafy twig which she casts off, where it resumes the form of the knife and lodges in the floor. She is helpless and exhausted; the death knoll sounds. Her partying friends come out in mourning to dance-march the final sequence.
When she indicates she wants the shoes removed Ivan and the shoemaker unlace them and the shoemaker gathers them up and lovingly returns them to the display window in his store - surely to await another gullible innocent. The final ballet scene is his gloatng over them.
But the story is only partly told. The insistence of the slippers is Lermontov's insistence that she dance for him and reserve her entire being for the dance.
The movie shows the entire ballet - it IS the high drama - and runs 17 minutes long, with never a boring or blah moment in it. It makes no effort to "show off" dance techniques or teach the viewer about dance or musical composition. This is almost like spontaneous movement. Sometimes there's a hint of Gershwin in the rhythm. The setting plays major parts. The party is an almost carnival scene, with booths, games, streamers. Then the church, which reaches out to her when she's ensnared, but can't retrieve her. It's on its steps that she finally succumbs, perhaps from Hans Christian Anderson, a moral to the story, the climatic scene - like a close-played football game or a climactic action movi -, except here, an unprecedented concept: the spirit of a ballet and of the movie itself.
Vicky and Julian fall in love
The hard work pays off for Ballet Lermentov. The Red Shoes opens to much applause and international acclaim. When Grischa tells Vicky she wasn't bad, and claims that is even better praise than all the other acclaim - and then adds that she was good, she feels the work is successful. Then when Boris calls her in and demands that she reaffirm her commitment to dance he promises her the world as the greatest dancer, playing all the great parts in Ballet Lermentov's repertoire on a world-wide tour. All those who had doubts about her talent are more than won over. The tour begins and is in full swing.
But there is a fly in the ointment.
During the preparation and presentation of The Red Shoes, Julian and Vicky are literally thrown together in constant close contact and, sure enough - Cupid strikes. Their continued contact on the tour, as she dances and he conducts the orchestra helps develop and maintain the momentum begun by their mutual attraction as it deepens. They say incredibly sweet and loving words to each other in moments of privacy when they are beyond the spotlight of audiences and Lermentov.
On one occasion when they are headed off together, Boris had planned to ask her to dinner, but she was nowhere to be found. A party for Grischa's birthday known to be in progress was finally offered as the explanation of her whereabouts, leading Boris to go to the party, where he doesn't find her and during which the lovebirds' situation is revealed.
His antenna become acutely attuned and when he catches them in an embrace in her dressing room, his anger erupts, but he doesn't lash out or retaliate to Vicky. In his typical autocratic way, he manages to push Julian into quitting, which involves scrapping his latest ballet, a major frustration to the other dancers who are rehearsing it enthusiastically. In fact, Grischa threatens to leave too, but eventually that is reversed. But when Vicky threatens to leave if Julian is going, she follows through and joins Julian as he leaves.
They marry and Boris manipulates situations so he can offer Irina the lead dancer role again without losing face, but he's merely biding his time for the right opportunity to lure Vicky back. This happens when she comes to Monte Carlo with her aunt on holiday while Julian is at Covert Garden presenting his new opera's opening night. Boris arranges a chance meeting and entices her to come back and dance The Red Shoes, which no one else has ever danced or ever will, he promises her. He's deleted it from the repertoire to reserve it for this chance to lure Vicky back. He's denied her nothing legally but claims possession of all that Julian created while under contract to him. He's even read letters she writes to others in the troupe when away to keep tabs on her frame of mind so as to better watch for his opportunity.
The lure of the Red Shoes again captures Vicky
Boris is a master of the manipulative technique of alternate wooing and flattery with abject rejection & indifference and it still has power over her. She's missing dancing "big time" though she's stayed in form and dances in smaller arenas. Boris has read her like a book and knows her vulnerability. Here in Monte Carlo the ambience grabs her even more tightly and he recognizes it as his moment. She agrees to dance The Red Shoes.
She's in costume backstage, preparing for the presentation when Julian arrives, having abandoned his own main passion to be at his opening night to come to her rescue. A dramatic scene takes place in which Boris comes in to see what is happening, and becomes involved, so that Vicki is being pulled between them, Boris representing her love of dance and Julian representing her human love. Each of them passionately presents his offer to her. She tells Julian she loves him ore than anyone. He agrees but says she loves "this" more and leaves as Boris is bad-mouthing him and the shabby life he offers her all the while.
She's crumbled and confused, but the ballet draws her, with the help of Boris whispering how her audience and fame await. She staggers to he feet as her assistant hands her the red shoes to put on, torn, tear-soaked and miserable as she is.
The shoes go on and Julian leaves. Out in the hall on the way to the stage, the shoes begin to move her in the opposite direction - back toward the veranda. They race her down the hallway, to the spiral staircase leading down and the stairs to the veranda. She rushes faster than lightning to look down below for Julian - to the edge of the veranda. She sees him walking away on the concourse far below, and reaches out - - - oblivious to the drop-off or the train passing below; and she tumbles over the railing onto the track. Julian has seen her running and was rushing toward her, trying to stop her from her fate below. . . to no avail.
He makes it to the site of her fall, where she is bloodied and dying. She asks him to remove the red shoes before she expires.
Inside, the orchestra has begun The Red Shoes Overture and the audience awaits.
Lermontov tells the audience of the tragedy.
The tragic conclusion
Meanwhile, Boris emerges to face the audience in front of the curtains. His face is devastated, there are even tears on his cheeks. The audience gasps. A distraught staff and troupe are weeping but they take up the stiff upper lip when Lermentov announces Vicky will not be able to perform that evening, nor, indeed any other evening but that The Red Shoes will go on, as, he says, she would have wished.
So we see Ivan fetching an invisible girl from her door to join with friends and he dances her empty spotlight over to where the shoemaker entices her to look at the red shoes.
The remainder of the ballet with an invisible leading lady is left to our imaginations till the shoes have been removed from her expired feet and body and once again the shoemaker has gathered them up - and, in front of his store window, projects and offers them again for the next unwary victim.
The candle is burned down and melted ~
The Red Shoes Revival
The Red Shoes retains its power to astonish in the 60+ plus years since its initial release, with its restoration rendering it perhaps even all the more potent, so that audiences who have seen it dozens of times before to see it as though for the first time and audiences who have never before seen it - or possibly have never even heard of it - can see it actually for their first time. It should be a national treasure - or I should say, - an international treasure!
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