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.