The White Crow (2018) is a British film on the early life, and defection to the West from Russia, of Rudolf Nureyev, the ballet dancer. It was inspired by the book, Rudolph Nureyev: The Life, by Julie Kavanagh. I found the film interesting, and it inspired me to do a little research on Nureyev, to learn about his later life in the West.
The title of the film, the White Crow, is the nickname given to Nureyev in his childhood. It is the Russian term for an outsider, unusual, extraordinary, not like others. This does describe Nuyerev, as he is also said to have been narcissistic. This kind of personality certainly would not have been able to fit happily into the rigid Socialist system of Russia at that time.
The film is directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also plays Alexander Ivanovich Pushkin, the ballet master who encouraged Rudolf Nureyev in his career in Russia. The direction leaves a little to be desired, but Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Pushkin is appropriate.
Oleg Ivenko as Nureyev performs a lot of ballet dancing. Apparently, Nureyev didn’t have perfect technique, but then, who does? What he did have is almost more important: charisma and stage presence. I’m not qualified to judge Ivenko’s technique, but his performance and stage presence seemed adequate for the part. There was a lot of ballet dancing, as one would expect. I would have liked to see a little less of Ivenko and more of the other dancers in the film. Male ballet dancers are impressive with their leaps and bounds, but it seems to add to their performance when they dance with a ballerina.
One thing I did learn from this film, that I didn’t know: Nureyev was born on a Trans-Siberian train near Irkutsk, Siberia. His early career was with the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, which I gathered, is where Pushkin came in, and Pushkin allowed Nureyev to live with him and his wife. Nureyev must have been bisexual, because it appeared he had sex with Pushkin’s wife. Pushkin seems to have accepted it.
The film’s depiction of the 1961 defection is pretty accurate, and although the defection was low key, does convey the tension around it. Rudolph Nureyev apparently was the first Soviet artist to defect to the West, and the whole affair was a huge sensation internationally.
This film is not a great sensation; nor one I would recommend unless you like watching male ballet dancers perform in tights.
Rudolph Nureyev had an illustrious career in the West. He danced with the British Royal Ballet Company, and the Paris Opera Ballet, being appointed Artistic Director in 1983. He died from AIDS complications in January 1993, aged 54.
Box office as of May 19 2019: $705,669