Still from The White Crow

Film Review: The White Crow

Ralph Fiennes directs this long-awaited bio-pic of troubled Russian dancer, Rudolf Nureyev.


Directed by double Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes, co-produced by Liam Neeson and written by great British playwright, David Hare, The White Crow tells the story of Soviet dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev played by Oleg Ivenko.

The title of the movie comes from an old Russian saying a “white crow” describing a person who is a one-off, completely unlike any other.

Nureyev was born on a Trans-Siberian train near Irkutsk, Siberia while his Mother was taking the train to visit his father who was a Red Army commissar.

His Mum won a lottery when he was six year’s old and took all of her children to watch the ballet. He fell in love with the dance and from then on wanted to become a great ballet dancer.

Nothing was going to stop him realising his dream – even politics. They saw it as an attack against the Soviet Union, but it was about dance and freedom…

In 1955 Rudolf Nureyev took the entrance exam for the prestigious Vaganova Academy (Kirov Ballet school) in Leningrad. He was admitted, but doesn’t like the teacher he is training under. He decides to choose his ballet master and trains under legendary ballet teacher Alexander Pushkin played by the multi-talented Ralph Fiennes.

Inspirational teacher Pushkin takes him under his wing along with his wife after Nureyev has a dance accident. He moves into their home and they take really good care of him.

In 1961, at 22 years of age and the first time since the war, his dancing company (the Kirov Ballet Company) go to perform in the west. This is a historic moment and Nureyev is in France for five weeks.

They aren’t supposed to connect with people outside of the Soviet Union, but he decides to step out and make new acquaintances. This is when he starts to branch out and make friends – he see’s freedom for the first time and wants to live his life without restriction.

There are flash backs to when he was a little boy living in poverty and scenes showing his curiosity, vulnerability and temper. The detail in the period settings along with the cars and costumes are lovely. Paris is beautifully shown and the buildings are exquisite.

We see him develop a passion for being free and wanting to experience everything Paris has to offer – The sights, art, night life, open attitude to sexuality and music.

When it comes to the end of the five-week tour – his dance company are flying to London and the KGB have decided to bring him home. The scene in the Airport is very tense, here he has to make up his mind about returning home or being free to live the life he has always wanted. He decides to claim political asylum. At this point it’s quite devastating. He has to choose between going back to his home country and life of being ruled by politics or maybe not being happy in France, but being free.

The dance sequences are stunning and the choreography is just beautiful to watch. It’s raw, art house and worth a watch.

The White Crow opens on July 18th

Reviewed by Gemma Crossland

Engaging 3.5 stars

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