Set in the early 1910s at a time of passionate artistic experimentalism, and based on biographical fact, this is the story of Vaslav Nijinsky, the young and brilliant but headstrong premier... See full summary »
Set in the early 1910s at a time of passionate artistic experimentalism, and based on biographical fact, this is the story of Vaslav Nijinsky, the young and brilliant but headstrong premier danseur and aspiring choreographer of the Ballets Russes. The company is managed by the famous Sergei Diaghilev, himself a controlling and fiercely possessive impresario. The increasing tension between these powerful egos, exacerbated by homosexual desire and jealousy, becomes triangular when the young ballerina Romola de Pulsky determinedly attempts to draw the increasingly mentally unstable Nijinsky away from Diaghilev, Written by
Eric Wees <email@example.com>
Brave attempt at a gay love story, but not brave enough to work!
Whatever the facts may have been, the screenplay writers here have chosen to interpret the end of Nijinsky's dazzling career and his descent into madness, as being caused by the end of his romantic relationship with Diaghilev. An interesting premise - that what appeared to most people to be a simple case of a "dirty old man" exploiting a young man's ambition (or perhaps an ambitious young man exploiting an older man's lust), was in fact a genuine love affair. They weren't using each other, they genuinely loved each other.
Sadly, in 1980, it appears the film-makers were not brave enough to explore this fully enough for the film to work. The characters talk about passion a lot, but we don't see it much. Indeed the only love scene between the two men involves a couple of little kisses with a handkerchief held to their lips! How wonderful it would have been to see these two men genuinely passionate with each other - physically and spiritually - and how they managed to turn that passion into great works of art. This way we could understand Nijinsky's devastation when Diaghilev rejects him. As it stands, it seems to come from nowhere.
This is no fault of the actors. Both Alan Bates and George De La Pena do what they can, with the scenes that they have. What a shame the film wasn't made a few years later, when gay relationships could be explored on screen more completely. This could have been one hell of a film. As it is, the ballet reconstructions are excellent and the costumes superb. Performances are strong, with the possible exception of Leslie Browne, who is a little out of her depth here as the scheming rich girl chasing Nijinsky. She fared much better in Herbert Ross' earlier ballet film THE TURNING POINT.
Herbert Ross was a terrific choice to direct the film, having been a professional ballet director and choreographer, and the film has a superb sense of period and great style. But the heart is missing. The racing heartbeats of two men, and two great artists, madly in love.
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