You remember I mentioned I’d be seeing ten films at this year’s HotDocs? Well, I’ve now seen three of them. “Ballerina”, “Anita” and “Tough Bond”. With the exception of Anita, I can’t say I loved all of them. But I am happy I saw them.
Does that make any sense at all? Probably not. It does to me, though. Because there was something in all three I found worth seeing.
“Ballerina” was, perhaps, the biggest surprise. Why, I’m not exactly sure.
Maybe because I’ve seen several films on dance and dancers over the years, so now I have pre-conceived notions. And a couple of years ago at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) I saw “Pina”, an absolutely magnificent Wim Wenders documentary about Pina Bausch, a famous German performer of modern dance, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director.
Shot on 3D it has, for me, forever changed my expectations for this genre of film.
So maybe it just wasn’t ever going to be possible for me to love “Ballerina”. Maybe I was just unable to appreciate it, on its
own merits. I have to find someone else who’s seen it; and have a conversation about it.
It’s a story inspired by the life and career of a world-famous Swedish ballerina. Much of the film was devoted to the conflict she faced. Her love of dance versus her love for her husband, with whom she had a daughter. She was, in the end, unable to give herself to both and she was forced to choose.
Care to guess?
She chose dance.
I was fine with the story. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to see the film. What I had a hard time with, was the film’s ‘mood’. It was dark, heavy and filled with despair. It was desperate and depressing. From the music, to the lighting, to the expressions on the dancers’ faces, to the choreography. I am quite sure it was a fairly accurate depiction of how Elsa Marianne von Rosen (the subject of the film) felt. Her angst and anguish. The sadness. I have no quarrel with it, if it’s true; and I have no reason to suspect it isn’t.
For me, it was simply too morose. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, I guess. People were walking out. Not a lot, but some. So perhaps others felt the same way. It seemed to last forever, as well, although it was less than an hour long. The misery and torment never let up for a minute.
What I found brilliant, though, was the way the director, D. Maja Friis, portrayed Rosen’s love affair with dance. She had her dancing with a man, who was purely symbolic. He represented ‘dance’. Like I said, absolutely brilliant. And effective. Because in their eyes, their body language, their movements, how they held each other, how perfectly attuned they were to each other, it became obvious. The uncontrollable passion. The madness. The force. It actually took my breath away.
But not enough to make me want to stay for the Q&A. The unrelenting sadness exhausted me. Drained me. And all I wanted was to get out into the sunshine and see brightness all around me.
Strange to have such a visceral reaction to a film. But there in, lays the power of film. It’s definitely the reason why I am such a movie addict.
To be fair to the other two films I saw this weekend, I’ll write about them another day. Maybe tomorrow. I spent more time on “Ballerina” than I thought I would. And there’s a limit to how much of your time, I can take up.
Besides, “Anita” was such a great film it deserves our full attention. Anita Hill was there for the Q&A, by the way. Yes, of course I stayed. Wouldn’t you?
And as for “Tough Bond”, which I saw yesterday, I think I need some more time to think about it, to be honest.