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 »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
George De La Pena ...
Baron de Gunzburg
Carla Fracci ...
Leon Bakst
Sergei Grigoriev
Frederick Jaeger ...
Gabriel Astruc
Anton Dolin ...
Maestro Cecchetti
Emilia Marcus
Adolph Bolm
Hetty Baynes ...


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Genius. Madman. Animal. God. Nijinsky. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 March 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Nijinsky - Uma História Real  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ken Russell was offered to direct the film. See more »


Referenced in Harry Saltzman: Showman (2000) See more »


from "Le Spectre de la Rose"
Composed by Carl Maria von Weber
See more »

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User Reviews

The Nijinsky story with all the players involved in this greatest of ballet dramas.
17 May 2015 | by (Sweden) – See all my reviews

The film was made shortly after the death of Romola Nijinskaya, the wife of the legendary dancer, as if the producers just had waited for her death to be able to make the film. It is very carefully done, sticking meticulously to the well documented case as it was lovingly presented by his wife herself in her two books about her famous husband. It's a sad story, of course, if not even like a Greek tragedy, and the film admirably tries to embrace and make the tragedy conceivable, by going into details about the passions of Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Fokine, the lovely Karsavina (the most sympathetic of them all) and Romola. But the chief asset of the film is the great acting by them all, including Ronald Pickup as Stravinsky ('a very dry man' according to Nijinsky, who didn't like him at all,) Alan Badel at his best as the Baron Ginzburg, Jeremy Irons as Fokine and above all Alan Bates as a superb Diaghilev, quite human in all his necessary monstrosity as an impresario with too many eccentric characters under his wings, and George de la Pena as an almost painfully true and convincing Nijinsky. To this comes the wonderful ballet performances, including "The Spectre of the Rose" (Nijinsky's tour de force) and "The Afternoon of a Faun", the crucial turning point in his career from only dancer to controversial choreographer. Deserving the highest merit of all is the most admirable reconstruction of the ballets russes at that time with the fabulous art works of Leon Bakst, Diaghilev's unique scenographer, turning all Fokine's and Nijinsky's ballets into sumptuous living fairy tales of fantastic dancing, perhaps most clearly illustrated by Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sheheradzade", which music finally crowns the film in the end, which is needed, since, as I said, it's a sad story, but it couldn't have been made better. The only objection that would be relevant is the failure of making Nijinsky's lapse into madness credible. It was actually a long process, he wasn't definitely past hope until 1917 (4 years after the end of the film), and the main reason was not the crises of his relationships but the impact on him by the First World War. This important piece in the puzzle is missing in the film. Instead you see him ending up in a strait-jacket without further explanation.

It's a great film none the less, and as time goes by it will certainly win the acclaim it deserves as one of the great ballet film classics, second only to "The Red Shoes" 1948 and "The Specter of the Rose" 1946, which actually also is a masked portrait of Nijinsky (see my review of that film).

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