Film Review: THE WHITE CROW (UK 2018) ****

The White Crow Poster

The story of Rudolf Nureyev‘s defection to the West.


Ralph Fiennes


David Hare (screenplay), Julie Kavanagh (Inspired by her book: “Rudolf Nureyev: The Life”)

The term white crow refers to a person who is both extraordinary and an outsider, a term that clearly applies to the famous Russian ballet dancer defector Rudolph Nureyev.  Ralph Fiennes directs from a screenplay by theatre playwright and director (who has also directed a few films) David Hare from the biography Rudolph Nureyev: The life by Julie Kavanagh.  It is the first part of his life, apparently the less volatile portion of it.  This begs for a sequel to this first look at Nureyev’s younger days.

The film begins with the dancer with his Russian troupe arriving in Paris for a performance for the first time.  The year is 1961.  As the route steps on to the bus that takes them around the streets of Paris, it is clear that the amount of logistics that have gone into this period piece.  The troupe are decked in the 60’s wardrobe with 60’s make-up and hair.  The steps on the bus are made of aluminium as they were often made in those days.  And the street is filled with 60’s vintage cars.  The Parisienne period atmosphere created is stunning as it is and well worth the price of the admission ticket regardless of how Fiennes’ film turns out.  His attention to detail, including his speaking of Russian, playing  Nureyev’s ballet teacher is to be commended.

The film flashbacks to the year 1938 on a train in the Soviet Union.  A woman is in delivery, which the audience assume (correctly) that it is Nureyev being born.  The audience sees that the ballet protege was born in poverty but rises to the top not only by talent and hard work but by sheer will of determination, often getting his way by awkward means.

As a biopic, Nureyev’s life story contains sufficient events to make it extremely absorbing if not entertaining.  Nureyev is told at the very beginning by a Russian official.   Ballet is all about rules and obedience.  Nureyev is a rebel.  Nureyev is brilliantly portrayed by Ukrainian dancer Oleg Ivenko who displays great dance performances as well as a model body to die for.  He has sex with both sexes, but the audience is spared the sex scenes.

The film’s shooting locations include the Hermitage in St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) and the Louvre in Paris.  The important painting ‘the raft’ is shown, displaying how beauty can emerge from ugliness.

For a two hour plus film, director Fiennes paces his film well, with hardly a dull moment.  He ends the film with an extremely suspenseful segment that turns out very satisfying for two reason.  Firstly, it is a truly well executed nail biter, with shades of TORN CURTAIN, that even Hitchcock would be proud of.   Fiennes also takes the risk (that pays of), of intercutting the segment with Nureyev’s mother offering him the crucial words “You do this alone,” while he makes the crucial important decision of whether to defect or go back to Russia.  The conclusion is also the termination of Nureyev’s dream for freedom to do the things he wishes, without restriction.  

I was in London a month ago when two opening films were hogging the news.  THE WHITE CROW (the other film was US) was one of them.


LAND OF MINE (Under Sandet)(Denmark/Germany 2015) *****Top 10

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:

land_of_mineDirector: Martin Zandvliet
Writer: Martin Zandvliet
Stars: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman

Review by Gilbert Seah

The Danish entry for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, LAND OF MINE is a film where hate dominates, but a film in which a hidden story needs to be told. It is a film that took a while to reach screens in Toronto, having premiered two years ago at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is a difficult film to watch, but an essential one. I have seen the film three times and is my favourite choice for the Winner for Best Foreign Film after TONI ERDMANN.

The film begins with the title, May 1945, five years after the German Occupation in Denmark. A Dane sergeant, Carl Rasmussen (Roland Møller) is driving along the road while German troops are evacuating. He sights a German stealing a Danish flag and lets him have it. “You are not welcome here,” he screams. This same sergeant is responsible for 14 young German POWs with no prior training, given the dangerous task of dismantling the land mines left on the west coast of Denmark.

Based on a true but previously hidden story, Martin Zandvliet’s LAND OF MINE is a tension-filled drama about Denmark’s darkest hour when a group of German POWs – most of them young boys – were sacrificed in the aftermath of WWII. With minimal training, they must remove 45,000 land mines from the local beach, among 2.2 million that the Nazis planted along the western coast. The POWs are just boys, recruited late in the war as older able-bodied men were dwindling.

The German boys dream of going home, to get a girl, to eat decent German food. But danger lurks every second, as they can be blown up by a land mine, if they let their guard down for even a second. There are 6 blow ups in the film, but director Zandvliet is smart enough to let them occur when least expected. So be forewarned that you will be jumping out of your seat in fright too often for comfort. On my third viewing, I still jumped up twice.

Despite the prevailing hatred for the Germans by the Danes, the German boys survive – for their innocence, their youth and the triumph of the human spirit. They even save a little Danish girl who ventures on to the mined beach despite them being mistreated by the mother. Among those playing the POWs are Emil and Oskar Belton (as identical twins), Louis Hofmann (as the group’s natural leader) and Joel Basman (as a cynic who would have liked to be leader).

This is one film that will bring tears to ones eyes. It is moving film about forgiveness, tolerance, racism and finally about doing what is right. The sergeant hates the Germans, mistreats the German boys under his command initially. After seeing them blown up by the mines, mistreated by the other Danes and mostly seeing them innocent as young boys caught in a world beyond their control, even though they are German, Rasmussen finally decide to side with the boys.

I watched an interview on director Zandvliet on TV two years ago. He says that his film is based on a story that has to be told. He also expressed his concern for the Syrian refugees and how governments should be more sympathetic to let these refugees in. This is one man who is dedicated for doing right for the human race. His awesome film LAND OF MINE demonstrates his conviction. I highly recommend this film, a great watch even after a third viewing.



Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out:

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month: