This week on Hit me with your best shot, we're celebrating the year 1948 with one of that year's best films "The Red Shoes". Directed by the famous directing duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, this tale of the rise and fall of a ballet dancer is a fine pick for the "Best Shot" treatment. Indeed, the bravura filmmaking involved in showcasing the titular ballet offers an endless array of striking images. In it, Moira Shearer also fully justifies the decision to cast a dancer who could act, rather than an actress who can dance. Her movements add that extra touch of emotion to the piece.
But my choice for best shot isn't from this scene. It comes towards the end, when the film delves deep into its central themes during the sad climax.
Click below for my favourite shot...
I settled on this particular shot because it highlights the film's notion that love and obsession are two sides of the same coin. This is the scene where Victoria (Moira Shearer) is forced to make a most heartbreaking decision. She's torn between her love of ballet and her love for Julian (Marius Goring), while also being the object of a psychological tug of war between Julian and Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), the owner of the ballet company. Eventually, she chooses Lermontov and his ballet (a sign of her own obsession), much to his delight. But the duality in his reaction is what makes this image so fascinating. Victoria is obviously at a low point in her life (having just lost her husband) and the way he tries to console her is so specific to this character (impeccably portrayed by Walbrook). He assures her...
"Life is so unimportant. And from now onwards, you will dance like nobody ever before."
There's no doubt that Lermontov feels strong affection towards her, but his obsession with his ballet's success trumps all the humanity in that love. He shows his true colors in this moment, as he tries to catch the attention of an assistant to bring Victoria her ballet shoes. Never mind the fact that she's feeling suicidal, because the show must go on and there's no time to waste!
Unfortunately, his controlling attitude leads to everyone's downfall. If only he showed a bit more concern for her emotional well-being, I suspect things would have ended differently for the two of them. But of course, I also suspect that such a happy ending would have lessened the film's power and made it a weaker film, unworthy of our own love and obsession with it.