VOD film review: The White Crow
James R | On 24, Jul 2019
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Oleg Ivenko, Adèle Exarchopoulos
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Ralph Fiennes’ third directorial effort, after Coriolanus and The Invisible Woman, once again dives into the divide between the public and the private – this time, in the Soviet Union. We jump back to the 1960s to chart the life of Rudolf Nureyev, a ballet prodigy who wanted to defect from his home country.
Scripted by David Hare, leaps boldly from past to present and back: in the one time period, we see the teenage dancer training hard under the watchful eye of Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes) and the more intimate eye of his wife; and in the other, we see him in Paris with the Kirov Ballet, discovering the thrill and glamour of other culture outside of the Iron Curtain.
The resulting structure struggles to build a flow, taking away the emotional impact of Rudolf’s initial college romance, which we only glimpse in fits and bursts. It also interrupts Adèle Exarchopoulos’ enjoyable screentime as his friend, Clara Saint. But there’s no denying the fun of simply watching Rudi in action: Oleg Ivenko delivering a magnetic lead turn as the dancer, at once annoyingly arrogant, admirably talented and inspiringly defiant.
Fiennes films him on 16mm, evoking the period with a gorgeous atmosphere that taps into the seductive charm of Paris. Fiennes only gets better at directing himself too; he provides strong support as the repressed and oppressive Pushkin, but gamely steps aside to let Oleg steal the spotlight.
The film climaxes with a splendid sequence inside an airport, as Nureyev’s choice between East and West comes to a head – you just wish that events leading up to it had that same fluent, moving immediacy.
The White Crow is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.