6th October 2017 6.15pm at Curzon Mayfair
7th October 2017 12.30pm at Vue West End
10th October 2017 12.30pm at Vue West End
The movie industry doesn’t touch upon ballet very often, and one wonders why. The dance form lends itself so well to film, since a camera’s purpose is to record movement; one would’ve thought there’d be more examples in cinema. Birgitte Stærmose’s Darling is the latest dip into the genre, and centres on the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of Giselle. After Darling (Danica Curcic) is assigned the lead role, she develops cysts around her hip-bone and has to be replaced. Not content with resting at home, she wishes to choreograph the production with Frans (Gustaf Skarsgård) – who is also her husband – which causes friction during the creative process.
Perhaps the reason why the industry is hesitant to approach ballet is because of movies like Darling. Stærmose appears far more infatuated with the rehearsals in themselves rather than the characters. The conflicts between them are as pale as their dancing shoes, making it difficult to engage with them on any emotional level. As a result, the audience doesn’t care about the show they’re preparing for or the story unfolding around it.
It’s also clear that the director can’t find anything of interest in her characters’ lives outside the world of dance. This is most apparent with Polly (Astrid Grarup Elbo), the far younger replacement for the lead, who appears as nothing more than an attractive puppet for Darling to envy and lust over. Polly has no history or sense of development as a character, and grows into an unengaging presence in the narrative.
Darling is a tedious exercise, but not without its attributes. Marek Weiser’s electric cinematography matches the rhythm of the ballet, essential in any movie involving dancing. The most obvious comparison is with Black Swan, but Stærmose’s film doesn’t develop with the same level of style or sympathy. The audience are never granted access inside Darling’s mind, causing them to reject empathising with her. A behind-the-scenes documentary of a ballet group would’ve been more emotionally engaging.
Darling does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Darling here: