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Ballet as metaphor in film?


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#1 FaveDave

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 03:00 AM

Hello all.

I am a writer/director preparing to make a romantic comedy (movie), and in the opening, a young girl goes with her mother to see "Giselle". In voiceover, we hear the adult voice of the young girl say how disgusted she is with the whole plot and the codependence and neediness of the Giselle character. And when Giselle dies of a broken heart (in this version it's the broken heart, not the suicide), the voiceover declares "The lesson I learned from all this is that love will drive you insane and quite possibly kill you."

The movie will only show about 90 seconds worth of ballet, basically the plot points of the first act: Giselle's weak heart, falling in love, Albrecht's disguise revealed, and the mad/death scene. All of it accompanied by our lead character's voiceover summarizing the ballet's plot.

I wrote "Giselle" into the movie because it reinforces our movie's main character's low opinion of love that carries over into adulthood, which is where the rest of our movie takes place. Of course, this being a romantic comedy, she changes by the end of the movie and learns to fall in love, eventually happily declaring: "I learned love doesn't kill you, but it does make you insane."

My question for this board is: has anyone ever seen ballet in a movie as metaphor or a major plot point? I can't think of one (one that wasn't about dance in the first place).

Just curious. "Giselle" is so rich in meaning that I'm surprised it never made into a movie before. Or maybe there are no other writer/directors into ballet...?

thanks.

#2 Hans

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 05:14 PM

I could be wrong, but aren't there bits of Giselle in "The Turning Point"?

As far as ballet as a metaphor/major plot point in a movie, I can think of "White Nights," "Center Stage," "The Red Shoes," and "Limelight," as well as "The Turning Point" (of course) although I'm sure there are others.

A small historical note you might find interesting--Giselle was not originally the delicate weakling she is portrayed as today; in fact, she was a healthy, hearty peasant girl who committed suicide when Albrecht's duplicity was revealed. I suspect that it was Grisi (not sure, perhaps Elssler...?) who started the "dying of a broken heart" concept, stating that she did not need a sword to die.

#3 FaveDave

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 05:18 PM

I could be wrong, but aren't there bits of Giselle in "The Turning Point"?

As far as ballet as a metaphor/major plot point in a movie, I can think of "White Nights," "Center Stage," "The Red Shoes," and "Limelight," as well as "The Turning Point" (of course) although I'm sure there are others.



Yes, I was asking about non-dance themed movies, though. I was wondering if anyone had seen a movie where it appeared but the rest of the movie was not about dance.

Of course it's been in dance movies....

#4 Hans

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 06:02 PM

Oh, right, that would make sense, wouldn't it? :) Sorry--my mistake.

#5 carbro

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 06:26 PM

I wrote "Giselle" into the movie because it reinforces our movie's main character's low opinion of love that carries over into adulthood, which is where the rest of our movie takes place. Of course, this being a romantic comedy, she changes by the end of the movie and learns to fall in love, eventually happily declaring: "I learned love doesn't kill you, but it does make you insane."

Can't think of any examples you're looking for. Along the lines of The Turning Point (but much less memorable) is Dancers which starred Baryshnikov and introduced us to Julie Kent, and which paralleled Giselle's general plot.

But I will take issue with the premise (not knowing a bit how your screenplay proceeds). Act II is an assertion of the enduring, redemptive power of love. The lovers' reconciliation before their final parting is the message we're supposed to take away.

Thanks for introducing an interesting topic, FaveDave. We'd love to know a bit more about you, if you please. Here's our Welcome Page. :)

#6 FaveDave

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 07:09 PM

But I will take issue with the premise (not knowing a bit how your screenplay proceeds). Act II is an assertion of the enduring, redemptive power of love. The lovers' reconciliation before their final parting is the message we're supposed to take away.


Well, that's a journey our main character makes. Giselle Act I is just a starting point for her.

To include more of the ballet would divert from her own journey. It's a reference point that reflect her own state of mind, and her reaction to the ballet is revealing of her character. Her mother and cousin are crying at the emotion of the mad scene, while she is cynical. And she's only 9.

I don't understand - what premise are you referring to?

#7 drb

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 07:31 PM

And she's only 9.

Ahhhh, that explains it. She probably hasn't had her First Communion yet.
You can find loads of material on interpreting Giselle on the Theology of Ballet thread, listed under Writings on Ballet.

#8 carbro

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 08:08 PM

But I will take issue with the premise (not knowing a bit how your screenplay proceeds).

I don't understand - what premise are you referring to?

Perhaps I over-read your first post. I inferred that your character (through the adult v/o) retains her cynicism. Now I think I get it.

#9 Helene

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 09:03 PM

I haven't seen The Turning Point for a while, but didn't the film morph from a studio rehearsal of MacMillan's Romeo and Juliette into the bedroom scene between Baryshnikov's and Browne's characters? Later on, after he's cheated on her, I seem to remember them being in the studio again, but I don't remember what they were rehearsing or if that commented on the plot.

Also in Six Weeks, Katherine Healy's character, who is 12 and dying of leukemia, gets to dance Clara in The Nutcracker as a dying wish. I assume there is supposed to be a parallel between Healy getting six weeks of fulfilling her dreams and Clara dreamscape of the Drosselmeyer's magic kingdom, both of which come to an end.

If the character comes around by the end, FaveDave, you might want to look at footage of Vladimir Vasiliev in street clothes coaching Monique Lourdieres, the last chapter of Dominique Delouche's film Comme les Oiseauz. Just those few clips made me believe for the first time that Albrecht isn't completely irredeemable.


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