The White Crow
Initially screened at the Telluride Film Festival, The White Crow follows the true story of Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko), a Russian ballet star who defects to the West during the Cold War. As Rudi becomes more associated with a culture outside the USSR in 1961, what and who pushed him towards his grasp for freedom becomes clearer over three time periods.
War and dance tangle well in Ralph Fiennes’s third directorial outing. The White Crow is strongest in its depiction of the fearsome Soviet Union and its ability to control and manipulate people. Fiennes himself plays Alexander Pushkin – Rudi’s mild-mannered ballet coach – in a role that would convince anyone he was from a Russian background.
The ballet sequences are impressive, immersive and authentic throughout, no doubt a result of casting a professional dancer in the lead role. Ivenko is an outstanding performer and has the potential to be a true acting threat on top of this. He has more than the basics of a leading man in terms of charisma.
That said, he often shows he still has much to learn, particularly in the English-based scenes. Where Fiennes looks comfortable with unfamiliar language, Ivenko falls short. The arrogance and determination the actor is attempting to show can seem disproportionate as he concentrates on translation portrayal. The supporting cast tend to show more promise in these moments, though the excellent performances of both Chulpan Khamatova as Xenia Pushkin and Alexey Morozov as Strizhevsky should not be understated.
The underlying theme of anger mixes between subtle and explosive excellently, assisted by an often appropriately haunting soundtrack. The cinematography used to capture such specific moments in history is inspiring and demonstrates Fiennes’s natural artistic techniques when in the director’s chair.
The White Crow would have perhaps benefited from cutting a few plot elements. The movie builds towards the final act well, and creates surprising tension in the unlikeliest of places, but the inclusion of Rudi’s very early years is mostly irrelevant and gives off the impression the film is too unnecessarily jumbled. The grainy sequences aren’t exactly uninteresting, but they do little for true character development, and take away from time that could have been spent on more interesting mysteries, such as Rudi’s sexuality and the true motivation behind his need for freedom.
The White Crow is released nationwide on 22nd March 2019.
Watch the trailer for The White Crow here: