The White Crow, the story of Rudolf Nureyev

16/4 · Por HBO · Reading 3 min.

Enjoy The White Crow (2018), the third film directed by Ralph Fiennes that shows the childhood, youth, and desertion of the famous Russian dancer Rudolf Nuréyev from the Soviet Union.

Rudolf Nureyev, the dancer who defected from the Soviet Union

In the late 1950s, the Soviet state invested time and resources in sports and artistic disciplines, including classical ballet. Russian dancers were expected to be among the best in the world, and this had certainly been achieved. This, of course, functioned as communist propaganda, both outside and within the borders of the Soviet Union. In fact, the most prominent dancers were considered national heroes. They had privileges that the rest of the population lacked;  even traveling beyond the Russian borders. 

Rudolf Nureyev was one of these dancers who had made a name for himself. In 1958, at the age of twenty, he was in Vienna at the International Youth Festival. His behavior at that time tested the tolerance of the Soviet regime; he was too close to foreigners, too friendly, and too much of a party animal. He was forbidden to travel again, but in 1961 the famous Soviet dancer Konstantin Sergeyev was injured and Nuryev became his replacement in Paris. On the verge of returning, having finished his performances, and marveling at Paris, Nureyev decided to escape KGB surveillance and seek political asylum. It was, without a doubt, a severe blow to the Soviet Union: one of its national heroes had rejected the highly illustrious socialist lifestyle.  

The White Crow, based on the biography Nureyev: The Life

After reading Julie Kavanagh's biography Nureyev: The Life (2007), actor and director Ralph Fiennes was enticed to make a film. According to him, he was not attracted by the dance but rather by the courage of this young man; carrying a humble background and never let himself be defeated in his passion for art. The White Crow shows his childhood, his student years, his passion for the West, and his desertion.  Yet it is not exactly a biography or the story of a fugitive but, above all, as Fiennes wanted, the story of Nureyev’s free soul.

Oleg Ivenko, the actor who plays Nureyev 

Nureyev is played by Ukrainian Oleg Ivenko, the principal dancer of the Kazan Theatre company in Russia. Fiennes did not want a famous face and chose this young dancer who had no acting experience and who also did not speak English, but was able to learn in record time for the filming. In fact, the film is spoken partly in Russian and partly in English. This was Olenko's first film and it was certainly a challenge for him; not only because he learned to act and speak English, but also because of the challenge of putting himself in the shoes of the legendary Nureyev. 

Ralph Fiennes, from actor to director

Ralph Fiennes is a well-known British character actor who worked for years in the Shakespearean universe, and who also, towards the nineties, ventured into Hollywood, developing a good number of roles of dramatic depth. Some of these roles include the Nazi officer Amo Goeth in  Schlinder’s List (1993), the genius of memory Charles Van Duren in Quiz Show (1994), Lenny Nero, the ex-cop record dealer for memories in the futuristic Strange Days (1995), the Hungarian explorer László Almásy in The English Patient (1996), the serial killer from Red Dragon (2002), the disturbed man from Spider (2002) and the concierge of a prestigious European hotel from The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) as well as his interpretation of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films. 

Fiennes has worked under the guidance of great directors such as Steven Spielberg, David Cronenberg, Kathryn Bigelow, Wes Anderson, and Anthony Minghella. But he has also made a foray into directing with works such as Coriolanus (2011), The Invisible Woman (2013), and The White Crow. The first is a contemporary version of Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name; the second, the dramatic story of Charles Dickens' secret love, and the third, The White Crow, the story of a crucial moment in the life of one of the world's most famous dancers.

In The White Crow, Fiennes also performs as the famous dance teacher Alexander Pushkin, who was Nureyev’s tutor, as well as other greats such as Oleg Vinogradov and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

The White Crow, directed by Ralph Fiennes, starting this April on HBO and HBO GO.

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