The Red Shoes | Fresh Takes
Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.
Ellis, Kit & River
19 Jan 24
Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas.
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Here are some Fresh Takes on The Red Shoes. With a phenomenal cast, Oscar-winning design and music, and truly unforgettable dance sequences, this beloved classic stands as an enthralling tribute to the life of the artist – and remains the definitive portrayal of ballet on screen.
This film is showing as part of our Powell & Pressburger season, a celebration of the UK's most prodigious pair of filmmakers and their far-reaching, utterly sublime cinematic visions. Find out more and book tickets at picturehouses.com/p&p
Ellis Jupiter, 23Ellis is a London-based creative with a passion for theatre, film, and outrageous fashion choices.
The Red Shoes is, undoubtedly, a classic. This is a title I have learned to be wary of, given how many 'classics' turn out to be over-hyped, male-gazey affairs. However, given The Red Shoes premiered in 1948, I feel a modern viewer should be somewhat forgiving. Many aspects of the film are surprisingly refreshing – I was first struck by the fabulous vibrancy of the colour palette. The first few shots are like a moving oil painting, rich and moody, which then give way to bright and busy scenes; a trippy, wonderland-esque ballet; and quiet, vulnerable landscapes.
Anton Walbrook is impressively charming (yet slightly creepy) as the intense Boris Lermontov, head of the Lermontov ballet company. He is stiff and controlled while the rest of the cast is vivacious and gestural. The odd hammy acting moment is to be expected, but on the whole, The Red Shoes is an ode to artistry.
Passion, intensity, and flamboyance are expertly portrayed by the dancers, and reflected in the whirlwind of snappy scenes as Lermontov spies his new prodigies (composer Julian Craster, played by Marius Goring, and ballet dancer Victoria Page, played by Moira Shearer) and thrusts them into the careers they have always dreamed of.
The costumes are to die for, especially the blue asymmetric number Vicky wears in Monte Carlo. Towards the end of the film, the storytelling momentum slows, and the conclusion is painfully of its time, but ultimately the bewitching choreography and earnest performances from Shearer and Goring had me spellbound.
Kit is a York-based storyteller who is passionate about representation and diversity in film and television. They have recently guest judged at the International MIPCOM Diversify Awards as well as the Novella Film Festival. See more of Kit's work here.
The Red Shoes is a beautifully restored film, having originally been shot in post-war Britain and released in 1948. I had my doubts about whether I would relate to something from almost eighty years ago, but the warmth and aesthetic of the film proved it to be timeless.
Interwoven with the choreography is a powerful story of what it means to feel fulfilled in life, and how we often have to make difficult choices about what we most desire. As a dancer myself, I was keen to see whether Powell and Pressburger had really done their research or if their story would fall back onto familiar dance tropes. I was impressed: the choreography is slick and stunning and matches the tone of the overall film perfectly.
I was also surprised by the striking visuals and special effects, which to me look years ahead of their time. Alongside the choreography and music, it was a real feast for the eyes throughout.
Moira Shearer, playing the initially timid Victoria Page, matches perfectly with the bold energy of Anton Walbrook's Boris Lermontov. I was surprised to see that this was Shearer's first venture into film, as she held herself well and had a really strong sense of her character.
The Red Shoes brings us back to an era of cinema full of charm and delight, where technology was advancing and there were more ways than ever to explore the arts. It reminds us that film should be an experience that activates all the senses – and that's exactly what it is.
River Berry, 20
River is based in Norwich and studying acting with hopes of working as a producer. Their favourite works are surreal and uncanny, or light-hearted comedies.
The Red Shoes is a stunning classic, in part due to its beautiful visuals. The musical score plays in tandem with this, providing a sensory feast which seeks to ask questions about our priorities in life – be they art, or love, and how sometimes you cannot have both.
The cinematography is fascinating, with some shots and scenes being a clear inspiration for more contemporary works such as Suspiria and Black Swan. This film is quite different from both of my comparisons, especially in tone; you must remember that it was released in 1948, which is hard to do when some of the shots seem so complex, and the technicolour so vibrant.
Whether or not you enjoy films about dance, or older films, I would recommend this film as essential viewing, to understand some of the ways we have come forward in film technology, and also as one of Powell and Pressburger's classics.