The White Crow

Jacob Richardson | 29/07/2019

Ironically for a film about a dancer with poor technique who captures the heart of ballet, The White Crow is technically proficient but lacks any passion or interest. 


Young Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) becomes a top ballet dancer in Russia, under the watchful tutorial eye of his teacher Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes). However, when he makes a life-changing visit to Paris, he meets Clara Saint (Adele Exarchopolous). There relationship, while seemingly terse and problematic, nevertheless makes him realise the prison he lives in, and soon makes him seek asylum in France.


The main problem of The White Crow is, ironically, the White Crow himself. The lead character is so utterly detestable. There is not a single redeemable quality. He is a contemptible asshole, who not only treats everyone around him horribly, but also seems impossibly self-obsessed. 


The one thing that could possibly redeem a character like this is some measure of incredible talent, but director Ralph Fiennes can’t seem to show this talent adequately. Part of that is down to the difficulties in filming dance, and part also in the difficulties in showing the difference in dance capability between the White Crow and his surrounding cast of ballerinas, who are all immensely talented. 


In that respect, The White Crow really stumbles when it focuses on its lead. That isn’t Oleg Ivenko’s fault, however, because he is tremendous at portraying this contemptibility. Rather, it seems to be an indictment of the man himself, and in some measure the script and direction. 


The supporting characters are barely recognisable past the exit of the cinema. Fiennes plays muted like he is trying to blend into the walls, and Exarchopolous too struggles to make an impression. 


The film picks up in the final act, when Rudolf tries to defect. Here it becomes much more of a conventional thriller, with Russian agents trying to hold Rudolf at the airport and convince him to get on a plane back to Russia, French authorities managing the difficulties of defection diplomacy, and Adele trying to fight for Rudolf to stay. It’s a shame the rest of the film never manages to create that level of intrigue. 


The White Crow is not only unenjoyable for the most part, but critically it is boring. For a character whose real life was so interesting, that is a real shame.