The White Crow is a new film written by David Hare (The Hours) and directed by and co-starring Ralph Fiennes. The movie tells the story of the Soviet-born ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev who, during his dance troupe’s stay in Paris, ends up defecting to the West. It has played at festivals including the 2018 Telluride Film Festival.
Nureyev’s story is certainly very compelling. His story is not one that is widely discussed, but it provides some interesting insight into the state of the Soviet Union at the time. It is crazy to see how one of the USSR’s most respected performers became disgraced within Soviet society because of some of the decisions he made. Although the story doesn’t have very much modern impact due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is still a fascinating look into the past.
The pacing of the film is somewhat uneven, but the movie manages to be mostly enjoyable nonetheless. The first hour of the film is relatively slow, but it does pick up significantly in the second half. The runtime of the movie clocks in at right around two hours, so the film could have spared some of the fluff time in the beginning. That being said, the last thirty minutes are surprisingly intense.
The character development in the movie could have used a bit more work as well. We care about Nureyev because of the situation in which he finds himself, but the film doesn’t do a great job of making him particularly likable. Quite frankly, he comes off as a jerk, and although we want him to be free of the oppression from the Soviets, we aren’t able to fully get behind some of his other ambitions. The supporting characters aren’t particularly deeply-written either.
On a technical level, the movie was mostly strong. The visuals do an excellent job of transporting you back into the beautiful dance scene of France. However, there are some decisions in the film that seemed unnecessary and somewhat excessive. For example, flashbacks are included frequently in the movie, and the aspect ratio is changed during these sequences. You can tell that these scenes are in the past because they feature a child instead of the adult Nureyev. The flourish was not needed.
Given the fact that dance is a huge part of the story and characters, you would expect that it would be incorporated into the film very heavily. The movie does not disappoint in this regard, featuring some beautifully-choreographed and gorgeously-shot dance sequences. The use of dance will allow you to admire not only Nureyev and the amount of effort he put in his craft, but also the art of dance in general.
The actors all do a very good job in their roles too. The lead actor, Oleg Ivenko, does an excellent job as Nureyev. His is able to handle the emotional moments with ease, capturing the cocky personality of the character quite well. Fiennes has a supporting role as Nureyev’s soft-spoken mentor. His turn is different from the roles Fiennes usually portrays, as it is much subtler and quieter. He does quite well regardless.
Overall, The White Crow was a mostly impressive film. Although the start is a bit rocky, the end is more than worth the wait, and Fiennes’s direction is more than able to make the movie worth watching.
The White Crow is now playing in select theaters.