The Red Shoes

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #44: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.

I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this movie, as I haven’t had much luck with Powell & Pressburger in the past, but it was good. The costuming, makeup and other production values were well situated to make the most of Technicolor. The plot was put together to deliberately parallel, in theme at least, that of the Hans Christian Andersen story that features so prominently throughout the film.

The only detractions were the frequently used special effects to highlight these parallels. They broke the suspension of disbelief that was watching a balletic performance, and beat the viewer over the head with dramatic irony. I can see that this might have been a glimpse into Vicki Page’s subjectivity, as well as an artistic decision, but the story & film itself was so well crafted up to that point, and any and all special effects so noticeably absent up to the first performance of The Red Shoes, that I think the film would have been stronger without their presence.

While dancing kills protagonists in both the literal and meta-literal stories, Powell and Pressburger efficiently and poignantly turn the fairy tale into something more contemporary and complex. The interlocking love triangles and tough choices that the main characters make (not always wise, but always passionate) make a much deeper point about what it means to die for what you love than any fairy tale could tell.