Adapted from the graphic novel by Bastien Vives, this fictional drama about the inner turmoil of a young Russian dancer offers dance lovers breathtaking moments.
Co-directed by screenwriter and director Valerie Muller and renowned French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj (her first film), Polina isn't afraid to push how dance is filmed. One audition is shot from the rafters, with the scenes capturing a range of tones, from the austerity of classical ballet classrooms to the emotional and moody settings of more contemporary pieces.
One of the delightful scenes is of young protagonist Polina (Veronika Zhovnytska) as a child dancing in the snow with a nuclear power plant as a backdrop. When we get to the finale - a stunning duet with adult Polina, played by professional ballerina Anastasia Shevtsova, and Opera National de Paris dancer Jeremie Belingard (it's worth seeing the film just to watch him) - it's clear dance is the winner.
The personal story of a Russian girl groomed since childhood to become a member of the Bolshoi Ballet, however, is a cooler, more restrained affair.
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After a childhood and teenage years subjected to tough ballet teachers, and on the cusp of achieving everything her parents have worked for, Polina makes a decision for herself; to pursue contemporary dance in France.
This is where an underused Juliette Binoche makes her mark as a contemporary dance guru who gives Polina a chance. Unfortunately, Polina struggles to adapt to this new form of dance, so when her beau (Niels Schneider) finds more synergy with another partner, Polina moves to Antwerp and finds another mentor in dance teacher Karl (Belingard).
Polina begins predictably but stops short of becoming a typical underdog success story. This is no bad thing. But whereas dance is beautifully expressed, we don't quite get to the heart of what drives this young woman, other than an institutionalised habit of hard work.
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Anastasia Shevtsova,
Director: Valerie Muller and Angelin Preljocaj
Rating: PG (Violence, coarse language & sexual references)
Running time: 108 mins
Verdict: A delight for dance lovers.
DID YOU KNOW...
Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh once pitched to revive the Planet of the Apes franchise in the early 90s. They missed out and went on to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which also starred Andy Serkis.