Giving a new angle to a timeless classic, Òran na h-Eala stands out for it’s portrayal of psychological trauma
“Well… How do you think you know that person you were a second ago is the same person you are now? A continuous stream of memories. Given only that, we all create illusions within ourselves, saying that we each have only one fixed persona.” -Eri Ochiai, Perfect Blue, Dir. Satoshi Kon
Hans Christian Anderson, the king of fairy tales has showered eternal tales that have been our constant companions. Apparently cheerful and uplifting, Anderson’s stories are way darker than they look. The Red shoes is one such tale. Taking inspiration from the work by Anderson, filmmaker duo Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell created a masterpiece called “The Red Shoes” in 1948 and now, director Steve Exeter delves deeper into the story to present us a side we have not seen or known.
The Red Shoes revolves around ballerina Victoria Page who gets torn between her passion for her craft and love. In Òran na h-Eala, Steve Exeter presents us the life of Moira Shearer, the actor who played Page in the 1948 classic. This movie shows Shearer’s emotional journey before and after she gets picked up as Page. Shearer is a dedicated ballerina and that is the reason she is approached by filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for the role of Victoria Page. Upon receiving the offer she feels conflicted. Moira oscillates her passion for dance and the call of fame and this is where Steve Exeter delves deeper into her psyche and shows the turmoil Moira goes through. This oscillation of the actor has an uncanny resemblance with her tragic onstage alter ego Victoria. Moira and Victoria, hence, become one in oscillation blurring the lines of difference that they share.
The movie is Steve’s homage to the classic and the personal touch is evident in the frames. The frames are well coordinated. Steve Exeter is earnest in his storytelling and his treatment of Moira’s psyche is sensible. Through this movie, the viewers get treated with a brilliant script and witness how an actor can be torn by a character they play. The movie is of only 13 minutes, but the time couldn’t become an enemy of the director, rather every scene oozes out the essence of the classic tale coupled with modern day storytelling.
The movie uses all the major cinematic elements at their best. Cinematographer Thomas Dobbie captures every frame with perfection. The movie is edited by Garry Madison and the work is of topnotch. The movie is a culmination of brilliant minds who have deep passion for filmmaking. From the colour palette to the lighting, everything is so well balanced that it makes the audience crave more. The frames are aesthetically pleasing and they suit the mood of the movie so well. The movie is emotionally charged and powerful, and the frames become a perfect companion to the theme. The actors shape themselves into their characters’ shell and deliver a strong performance that lingers in the heart.
Shannon Davidson sizzles as Moira Shearer. Her expressions and scenes show us what Moira goes through. Shannon’s performance is so powerful that sometimes it feels as if she is living her own life, not Moira’s. Her eyes express what her lips cannot, and as Moira gets trapped in her own thoughts, Shannon Davidson shines more. With an ease she delivers Moira to us , as if only she was born for the role. Alastair Thomson Mills and Alec Westwood were just as power duo Powell and Pressburger.
The movie also has an original rendition of “The Song of the Swan” as Mike Lukey and Arkadi Troitsky pour their hearts and souls into making a visually pleasing and spectacular ballet performance. Shannon excels as the ballerina too, the entire performance heightens the scale of the movie, as well as shows the plight of Moira.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have been two leading pillars of Hollywood and many works, especially iconic scenes, have been inspired by their work. Steve Exeter’s tribute might look humble amongst the giants, but this thirteen minute film shows what brilliance he possesses. His directorial prowess gives a new dimension to the film, taking it out from the category of ‘just a biopic’. Hopefully, the future will show us more such projects from Exeter.