by Jaime Grijalba.
I just recently finished re-watching this movie. I am in complete awe. For most of the film I was wondering and trying to remember the reasoning that I had and that I think everyone else had to put this movie in their own lists. I mean, this is a romantic/romance countdown and I’ve been two for two when it comes to the percentage of the element of romance in the final film. But then, after an hour and twenty minutes had passed, the first elements and bits of romance appear here and there, as the composer and the ballerina start talking in a balcony with an incredible landscape behind them, it may be a cliché, but the fact that those moments are played so grounded in terms of dialogue and advancement of the romance, that it seems as if every other element of the frame is screaming love, but it’s not yet really developed in the characters yet. It’s a clue, a mystery, because the whereabouts of when it really started, how it started or how deep their love is is also a hidden element of us, as we shift our focus to the one of the administration of the ballet company, specially under the strict and caring eyes of Lermontov.
It is not much a movie about the romance of the composer, Julian, and the dancer, Vicky, because you could compile every scene with the two of them together and it won’t really amount to more than twenty minutes, though it is their love that drives most of the last hour of the film, once Lermontov realizes the affair that is going between the two of them. The film is more interesting because it represents the themes of the ballet into the life of Vicky, as the girl with the red shoes can’t fight the urge of dancing that will lead her to death, and at the same time can’t love her own boyfriend, because she can’t stop dancing. In the end the film is a struggle of those two loves, the love of dancing by Vicky and the love she feels for Julian, and Lermontov knows that she struggles, he knows the character and the attitude of her, he knows that she needs to dance, she even told him that it was what made her live. That’s when the other interesting concept of the film comes through: how the jealous love of Lermontov is what practically makes this movie a complete romantic film in terms that it creates a love triangle. A strange and tragic love triangle.
We can’t help but notice the way that Lermontov watches Vicky dance, and the things and sentences that she has for her. He is obsessed, and later when he knows that he’s about to lose her, he becomes even madder, losing all his capabilities to be rational or even comply to normal social rules. He easily and quickly fires Julian once he knows that the affair is going and that it’s not going to stop, but that would be the simple approach to it, as the way that he does it is one that could be classified as psychotic if not in terrible bad taste. First, he starts by criticizing the dancing abilities of Vicky, riling Julian up into defending her and thus discovering the true feelings that he has for her, and then only to criticize the abilities that he has conducting the orchestra for the ballet that they are presenting. Everyone is saying that the dancing and the music is beautiful, but for Lermontov, blinded by the jealousy and the incredible illness that affects his mind, still sees the bad in all of it, as it justifies the firing and at the same time gives him enough power to overcome and then threaten Vicky, as to make it acceptable in his own mind that she has done something wrong so he could treat her badly, even though he loves her, just out of spite and bitter sadness.
I don’t know how many people will try to describe or try to come up with a discussion of what true love is, or if it even exists, in these essays that we’re reading in this countdown. But I’m sure that there won’t be many films that could describe, as better as this one, the extremes that people can go to because of the feelings they have for somebody else. The way that Lermontov continues to stalk and try to revise every step of the relationship of Vicky and Julian is almost sickening, how he establishes himself in the right spot just to find her “by accident” in the streets of France, and thus presenting himself as the temptation that will lead her to the decision to fall in love again with the dance and with the concept of probably dancing The Red Shoes once again, and that’s because of all the time that the severe and at the same time kind producer managed to get with Vicky, he knows her, as we’ve said before, and hence he knows what to do so that he could even later tell Julian that she has left him to dance once again, as it is her nature to do so.
Most of the readers know the catastrophic ending to this film, maybe one of the saddest and at the same time more powerful that ever was, and at the same time one of the most mysterious, as the real reasoning behind the final demise of Vicky, her final pirouette as if to say, has many and at the same time little explanation. Did she commit a mistake? Was it the curse of the red shoes? Was it because she was torn between her two loves: Julian and dancing? It is sad that in the end Lermontov, as much as he tries to, is never some kind of love interest, even though he says he’s not jealous in the romantic way (maybe he is just in love with her as a concept of a dancer), his own obsession is what in the end leads to that end. It’s curious to see the evolution of his psychosis, as it starts as a simple fall in love with Vicky, just to then suddenly realize that the love is not corresponded. As the film progresses his tactics and mannerisms become creepier and his face becomes paler, older, whiter, as if he was possessed by something he can’t control, his libido that he can’t project unto something other than an object of art, the libido that turns into castration and death.
So, is this a romantic movie? Judge yourselves people, I must say that love is present here, and that is enough for me, but what do you think?