Actors' dance backgrounds add to authenticity
Welcome to Reel Motion, a series of blog posts that examine the Northrop Film Series selections. Find out more about the screening of Polina on Wed, Mar 20 at 6:30 pm ahead of Ballet Preljocaj’s performance at Northrop on Sat, Mar 30.
The story of Polina is of the struggle of finding one's place in the world and what that means in the parallel struggle of becoming comfortable living in your own skin. For many artists, that struggle is the very core of what it means to be and artist, tying one’s livelihood to their mode of self-expression.
This timeless coming-of-age story takes the audience on the titular heroine's journey from the highly structured and competitive world of Russian ballet to the no-less competitive world of modern dance. Co-directed by Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj this film, at times, has an almost documentary-like feel; a very beautiful documentary thanks to striking, if austere cinematography. With Angelin Preljocaj's background in both the ballet world and as a lauded contemporary choreographer, his choreography and direction provided in the dancing sequences add an intensity and urgency to Polina's journey of discovering her authentic artistic voice as she moves between worlds and faces near-ruinous personal setbacks outside of the studio.
With performances by Anastasia Shevtosova (Polina) who danced with the Mariinsky Ballet, Jérémie Belingard (Polina's eventual collaborator Karl) who was a danseur étoile at the Paris Opera, and acclaimed actress Julie Binoche (Liria), herself a trained dancer, the real-life experiences and training of the cast crisply communicates the stakes for each character and how each moment informs their characters as artists, possibly more so that the machinations of the movie's plot.
Many reviews written about this film at the time of its release in 2016 liken the narrative of Polina's journey to a fairy tale. Which makes this film an appropriate choice to prepare you for Ballet Preljocaj's performance of La Fresque (The Painting on the Wall) 10 days later.
Shayna Houp is Northrop's Artist Services Manager and curates the Film Series each season.