Ralph Fiennes’ third directorial outing is a thrilling, ambitious biopic of the virtuosic Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, whose defection from the USSR to the west stunned the world at the height of the Cold War.
Starring Ukrainian dancer Oleg Ivenko as Nureyev in his screen debut, plus Sergei Polunin (Dancer) as Nureyev’s roommate Yuri Soloviev, it was inspired by Julie Kavanagh’s biography and scripted by David Hare.
1961: amid the raging Cold War, Soviet authorities send the world-renowned Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky) to Paris to demonstrate the cultural refinement behind the Iron Curtain. But one dancer causes a sensation far beyond the stage: the electrifying Rudolf Nureyev – who, while enjoying the city and its artists, finds himself drawn to the west’s less restrictive culture and, consequently, into a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse with the KGB.
Moving back and forth through time, this evocative film explores Nureyev’s origins (including his birth on a Trans-Siberian train, his rebellious youth and the first stirrings of his sexuality) while leading towards a stunning finale.
Beautifully shot on 16mm, Fiennes brings period texture and emotional depth to this study of a wildly talented man whose dangerous escape to the west reverberated through the worlds of ballet and international relations.
Cast: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Hofmann, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Sergei Polunin
Run time: 127 mins
The Arts Desk’s review ★★★★
A gripping depiction of the brilliance of Nureyev
Wendy Ide - Screen Daily
“Ralph Fiennes brings poise to ballet biopic”
Peter Bradshaw - The Guardian