After watching Black Narcissus and A Matter of Life and Death, I was utterly unprepared for what awaited in The Red Shoes, put together by the same creative and directorial team. Both of their previous postwar films had been slightly odd, yes, but they’d also been very focused on the story.
The Red Shoes moves away from that tendency quite hard. The story and character development are just framing devices for a film where music and dancing take center stage, but which isn’t exactly a musical. So when the girl becomes a prima ballerina and the boy becomes a composer / director and they fall in love, it doesn’t really matter to the audience, as it seems predestined from the beginning.
Their tale is a vehicle for a visual feast set in the middle of the movie in a virtuoso display of filmmaking prowess in an era half a century before CGI. The stage becomes a fantasy world that, as intended, makes the viewer question where the line between reality and fantasy runs. And, as intended, the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale at the center of the story spills out into reality.
Or does it?
Normally, when a film’s plot is paper-thin, I hesitate to send people around to watch it. But this one is about much more than plot. The eye candy is worth the price of admission, and there’s not much a reviewer can say other than that. If you like the kind of film that transports you to a magical place despite the lack of modern effects, this one will make you happy.
So, if the above is tempting, go ahead.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose work often explores that region where reality and unreal worlds collide. The best example of this is probably his novel Outside, which you can purchase here.