The White Crow

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
The White Crow

Ralph Fiennes plays it safe with this elegant but sanitised take on the early years of ballet firebrand Rudolf Nureyev.

Film review by Phil de Semlyen

Aside from being one of the greatest dancers in ballet history, Rudolf Nureyev was a bit of a livewire. He was mates with Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, broke the jaw of a fellow dancer and lobbed a chair at film director Franco Zeffirelli. He was once called ‘an artist, an animal and a cunt’ by his own choreographer.

Maybe director Ralph Fiennes is saving those juicy chapters of ‘Rudolf Nureyev: The Life’, the biography ‘The White Crow’ is adapted from, for an explosive sequel. With this restrained biopic, he and screenwriter David Hare have gone with the drier origin story, from his rural boyhood (his family’s poverty double-underlined by a bleached-out colour palette) to Soviet poster boy to Cold War defector in 1961.

The film dots between those three timelines, lingering longest in the Paris of the early ’60s where Nureyev first made his name as a touring dancer. In concert, they provide some neat psychological insights into the man. His birth on the Trans-Siberian Railway, for instance, parlays into an endearing citywide quest to find an expensive toy train set. Here was a man who effectively wanted to buy back his own childhood.

It’s elegantly shot, the ballet scenes soar and dancer Oleg Ivenko is a real find in his acting debut, bringing a combustible mix of curiosity, ego and boyish petulance to the role. But it lacks the sinewy power of the man himself and Bohemian Rhapsodies his sexual appetites to the point where you’d be hard-pressed to tell that he was gay. A bit less grace and a bit more grunt would have been welcome. 

By: Phil de Semlyen


Release details

Release date:
Friday March 22 2019
122 mins

Cast and crew

Ralph Fiennes
David Hare
Ralph Fiennes
Adèle Exarchopoulos
Oleg Ivenko

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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2 people listening

A spellbinding performance by a young man, Oleg Ivenko, in his first-ever acting role, who plays the celebrated ballet dancer, Rudolph Nureyev, in his teens and early twenties leading up to his national success and subsequent defection. It is squite a remarkable story:  a boy born on a train to impoverished parents (whose father is mostly absent) through a very difficult childhood, we see the determination of a young man evolve.  He doesn't want to be like his peers.  He wants to dance.  The punishment he puts upon himself to achieve perfection and success is extraordinary. He has single vision and sometimes personal relationships have to suffer.  An incredible story, wonderfully directed by Ralph Fiennes (who also assumes the role of Pushkin, Nureyev's Russian tutor in the film)  which everyone can enjoy, ballet fan or not.