105 Must See Films

105 Must See Films: The Red Shoes (1948)


Starring: Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring

Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

My first exposure to this film was when i was 5. There was a little girl at my primary school who was obsessed with this film, and I think we thought it was just about ballet and the costumes, and that was cool with us.

Watching this film the other day, I thought of that little girl, and wondered what she thought if this film now, if she had watched it as an adult. It was not exactly what I expected it to be about.

Victoria Page (Shearer) is the beautiful, red headed ballerina whose performance in the ballet The Red Shoes makes her a star, but she finds herself caught between her career and romance when her composer lover wants her to leave the ballet and her director who wants her to only be devoted to the pursuit of art.

Why Is It A Must See: What struck me about this film was the role of women, and how Victoria must literally chose between two men who want to own her entirely. If she’s a dancer she cannot be a wife, if she’s a star she cannot belong to any other man than her mentor. The film is quite dark in it’s depiction of the impresario Lemontov (Walbrook) who is really creepy and controlling, much like Cassell in Black Swan, a more updated ballet movie.  Women are like fragile butterflies in these films, desperate to be loved and to reach the pinnacle of their dancing prowess, but somehow it kills them, like a magic power that can’t be controlled.

It’s all rather odd when you think about it. Being a dancer is certainly grueling and practicing is a bit like an obsession, but no one would think a relationship healthy now that demanded that a woman stay home, or in which a director was as controlling as this one. It’s highly melodramatic by today’s standards.

And yet, on a smaller scale, I hear a lot of my friends talk about being made to feel guilty if they choose to not be a stay at home mother, or if they choose to not work. Are women still caught in this mad ballet of trying to follow their creativity and careers or have a relationship?

You can look at it like that, or you can just enjoy the beautiful, magical 20 minute ballet set piece which echoes the main themes and the tragic choices of a lovely woman caught between the dancing that is her life, and the man she loves.

See It If: you love melodrama, romance and ballet, this film has it all. Creepy and wonderful.

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