The White Crow is the story of ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev and his defection from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961 at the height of the Cold War, whilst on his first European tour with the Kirov Ballet Company.
The film charts Nureyev’s story from his birth on a Trans Siberian train and his life of poverty in the city of Ufa, through his years of dance training and climaxing with his historic escape to France.
Although the film starts with Nureyev’s birth, the film is mostly set in the late 1950s whilst he was studying at the Kirov Ballet Academy in Leningrad, with his past life being shown in a series of flashbacks.
Starting ballet later in life than the other students, Rudi (Oleg Ivenko) finds himself struggling under the tutelage of his first dance teacher but manages to get into the classes of Alexander Pushkin ( Ralph Fiennes) who becomes his mentor. He works himself hard, constantly practising and rehearsing, trying to make up for lost time and to catch up on the years of studying he has missed. After an accident where Rudi tears a ligament and finds himself incapacitated he is invited to recuperate at the home of Pushkin and his wife Xenia ( Chulpan Khamatova), whilst living at the Pushkin residence, Rudi begins an affair with Xenia. His bi-sexuality is portrayed when he shown also having an affair with a male ballet student Teja Kremke.
When Nureyev visits Paris with the rest of the ballet troupe he meets French dancers and other Parisians who invite him to parties, dinner and the theatre. Under the eye of the KGB Rudi delights in everything that Paris has to offer, and manages to get his fill of culture and to socialise with the ‘outside world’ where he meets and befriends a young French socialite Clara Saint ( Adele Exarchopolous ).
When the Paris leg of the tour comes to an end the troupe are booked to go on to perform in London, but whilst waiting at the airport Nureyev is told that he will not be joining everyone else in London but will be returning to Moscow for a Gala Performance. Suspecting that this is punishment for flouting the rules of the KGB and that he may never perform again or may even be imprisoned; he has to make the decision whether to return to Moscow or defect to the West. What follows is a representation of the final moments leading up to his asking for asylum and his defection and Clara Saints part therein.
I personally think that you will get more out of the film if you are a fan of Rudolf Nureyev or enjoy dance history, but this is still an interesting film that shows a different time for Russians during the Cold War.
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