This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 25th August 2013
Ballet aficionados will rightly flock to this cinematic rendering of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s recent production of Giselle, which has been brought to the screen for the rest of us to experience by director Toa Fraser (No. 2).
Dropped into a fairly straightforward stage production are snippets of allegorical scenes shot outdoors, and while initially this feels like two very different mediums not quite in step with one another, by the end of the film the naturalistic scenes have served to bring ballet, and Giselle’s sad tale, more into the modern age.
Act I is staged and shot like a traditional ballet production, not really lending itself to cinema except for the odd moment when camera-enabled close-ups convey more pathos from the artists’ faces. That said, principal dancer Gillian Murphy is totally captivating with her every move, for fans and novices alike.
However, following the interesting inclusion of a Don McGlashan soundtracked intermission, things get dark and exciting as a chorus line of tulle-clad ballerinas mourns the injustice inflicted upon the heroine. The Auckland Philharmonic pounds away and things get impassioned against a sensational set design. It’s a beautiful kind of magic.
Those who enjoyed TV’s The Secret Lives of Dancers will be pleased to see the likes of Abigail and the Lucys getting to stretch their legs in proper roles, and there is no disputing the RNZB production is terrific. Whether Fraser’s film will introduce a new audience to the genre will remain to be seen.