The White Crow
Ralph Fiennes’ sensual and thrilling third feature as director dramatises ballet sensation Rudolph Nureyev’s defection from Soviet Russia to the West.
Fiennes film, adapted from Julie Kavanagh’s acclaimed book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life by David Hare, moves between the dancer’s youth, his first entry into the ballet world and the Kirov’s celebrated visit to Paris, when Nureyev decided to leave his homeland for the West. Ballet dancer Oleg Ivenko makes his screen debut as the adult Nureyev, an upstart convinced of his brilliance but emotionally immature. He is taken under the wing of ballet master Alexander Pushkin (Fiennes). But Nureyev’s encounter with the West finds him torn between the artistic world of the ballet and the seductive cultural environment beyond the Iron Curtain.
This is rich territory for Hare. His adaptation of The Hours similarly and seamlessly changed emotional gears through its various timelines and here he shifts between past and present with ease. Fiennes’ direction captures the dynamic of dance and evinces the passion of those dedicated to it. But his skills behind the camera come into their own in the thrilling climactic sequence, which finds Nureyev having to choose which world he wishes to belong to. It’s a masterclass in tension and Fiennes stages it as a crescendo to his already impressive drama.