Filmsite Movie Review
The Red Shoes (1948)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Departure from Monte Carlo to Paris:

At 8:00 am the next morning at the train station, where Lermontov was soon to depart for Paris, Vicky spoke to him for a few short minutes in his private train-car about his conflict with Julian. She reinterated how heart-felt love had changed her life-long desire to entirely dedicate herself to her art (ballet):

I thought once, Mr. Lermontov, that there would be no room in my life for anything but dancing....But if Julian goes, I shaIl go too.... I shall dance somewhere else.

He gloated that he had made her a well-known "name" in dancing, and could continue to make her famous even further - and "one of the greatest dancers the world has ever known." Although ambivalent about her painful and difficult choice (to either leave Julian or the company, Lermontov's two-pronged ultimatum), she bid Lermontov goodbye and decided to leave the company to be allied with Julian.

Shortly thereafter, a telegram from Dmitri in Monte Carlo to Lermontov in Paris announced their marriage in London:


Next to the opened telegram on Lermontov's office desk was a messy ashtray filled with cigarette butts. Wearing a purple velvet shirt in his opulent living quarters, Lermontov was still perturbed by Vicky's departure. He pounded his fist into the crumpled telegram, while calling out: "Fool, fool!", and then smashed his fist into his own reflection in a mirror. When a lawyer appeared with papers to sign for a legal injunction against Vicky, Lermontov revealed he was still vacillating about preventing Vicky from ever dancing again. Since he owned the rights to the Red Shoes ballet, he wanted it to remain his exclusive possession: "I don't want to stop her doing anything. She can dance whenever she likes - except The Red Shoes." However, he still harbored resentment against Craster for taking Vicky away from him:

Everything he's written while under contract to me is mine. That's in the contract. The Red Shoes and his work so far on La Belle Meuniere. I am not interested in anything else he may write....The Red Shoes is no longer in the repertoire!

Lermontov suggested for his lawyer to set up an "chance" encounter with his former prima ballerina star Irina Boronskaja, now married to Patrick Trevelyan. At a garden party, he was able to convince her (off-screen) to return to star in his productions on tour, and she was soon performing in many of the company's productions - Rome, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Mexico, Toronto, New York and Monte Carlo (hotel travel stickers from each locale were pasted onto the screen). Plans were being made with a new composer named Jacques to perform La Belle Meuniere in London, with Irina in the lead dance role.

In a conference within his headquarters in Monte Carlo, Lermontov learned (through letters) about the whereabouts and circumstances of his "two young rebels" - he called them "deserters" and had no regrets:

  • the talented composer Julian had written an entirely new opera (with inspiration from Vicky - "a miracle"), that would open soon in London
  • Sergei's letter from Vicky was kept from Lermontov - she derogatorily had called him "a gifted, cruel monster"

In London, Julian and Vicky slept in separate beds, and were apparently struggling with their situation, but still very much in love. She went to her dresser and longingly touched her many pairs of ballet shoes, as Julian was composing in the next room at the piano (with a candelabra and burning candles). As Lermontov replied to Vicky's letter with a handwritten response -- Dmitri burst in with news that Vicky Page was in France for a short holiday with her Aunt Lady Neston. Julian was busy rehearsing for his debut opera performance of Cupid and Psyche at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London.

Lermontov met up with Vicky during her train stop in Paris, on its way to Cannes, France: ("We seem to be destined to meet at railway stations"). He stated he was always looking "for great dancers," and they both agreed that they had mutually missed each other. After Vicky lamented the lack of work: "I haven't danced very much" - he requested that she return for a one-time revival of The Red Shoes. He was determined that past history - Irina Boronskaja's departure from dancing for marriage - would not repeat itself:

Nobody else has ever danced The Red Shoes since you left. Nobody else ever shall. Put on the red shoes, Vicky, and dance for us again.

The Revival Performance of The Red Shoes in Monte Carlo:

Presumably, she was unable to resist his offer - a poster displayed the Ballet Lermontov opening of The Red Shoes on September 3rd at 8:00 pm in Monte Carlo. On the night of the performance as she prepared in her hotel room, Vicky (with her costume and red shoes) heard on a BBC radio broadcast - the same night as Julian's opening in London - that he had "suddenly taken ill," and would be replaced by conductor Sir Hartley Menges. Suddenly, a sullen-faced, distraught and stern-looking Julian entered Vicky's dressing room. He had left his premiere night debut and proposed to take them together back to Paris on the 8:00 pm train - he feared that she would be leaving him forever. He urged her to "walk out" on her commitment, as Lermontov entered the room.

Vicky begged both of them to quit tugging at her. She tried to explain that she had capitulated to Lermontov only because of her love for ballet, not because of her loss of love for Julian:

Oh, for God's sake, leave me alone, both of you! Please, Julian. Wait until after the performance.

The jealous Lermontov asserted his willful control over Vicky, taunted her, and implied that she had split from her marriage to Julian and had chosen him instead, while Craster fought back for his wife:

Lermontov: Tell him why you've left him....Oh, yes, you have left him. Nobody can have two lives, and your life is dancing.
Julian: Vicky, you could dance anywhere eIse in the whole world.
Lermontov: Would you be satisfied with anything less than the best? If you would, you would never be a great artist. Perhaps you never wiIl. And would you make her a great dancer as well? Never. Why do you think I've waited day after day since you snatched her away from me for a chance to win her back?
Julian: Because you're jealous of her.
Lermontov: Yes! I am, but in a way that you will never understand.

Dramatically conflicted between her two loves that were contending for her heart and her destiny, she sobbed and vowed her love for Julian: ("I love you, Julian. Nobody but you!"), but he knew her true desire was to dance - as he looked down at her red shoes: "But you love that more." Lermontov threatened the very-distressed Vicky: "If you go with him now, I wiIl never take you back. Never!" Julian countered with Vicky as he grabbed her face and pleaded: "Vicky, do you want to destroy our love?" Lermontov sneered at the couple: "Adolescent nonsense!" Julian finally ceded and surrendered to Vicky's ambivalence, realizing that his ultimatum to Vicky had failed: "All right. Go, then. Go with him." Lermontov sarcastically described her horrible domestic life if she chose to be with Julian:

Be a faithful housewife with a crowd of screaming children and finish with dancing forever!

After Julian was forced to leave with a goodbye kiss ("Good-bye then, my darling"), Lermontov momentarily gloated and bragged about his victory to "Little Vicky" -

There it is, all waiting for you. Sorrow will pass, believe me. Life is so unimportant and from now onwards, you will dance like nobody ever before!

Vicky was guided out of her room to the stage, as her willful red shoes began to glow on her feet.

The film ended with her melodramatic tragic death scene just before her appearance in the encore presentation of The Red Shoes ballet. The broken-hearted, costumed Vicky backed up, fled down a spiral staircase and a series of stone steps, and emerged on a terrace balcony overlook that was above the railway station (where Julian was awaiting his departure). Her controlling red ballet slippers had willfully directed her there, and forcefully and suicidally pulled her off to her death (into the path of an oncoming train on the tracks below that would take Julian away). Her death was a real-life recreation of the role she was playing in The Red Shoes ballet.

Following her death, an announcement was delivered by a stunned and visibly upset Lermontov (with a halting voice and the wringing of his hands) in a spotlight in front of the red curtain (after the orchestra's playing of the overture), amidst gasps and murmuring:

Ladies and Gentlemen. I'm sorry to tell you that Miss Page is unable to dance tonight, nor indeed any other night. Nevertheless, we've decided to present The Red Shoes. It is the ballet that made her name, whose name she made. We present it because we think she would have wished it.

The ballet was performed as planned, respectfully without her presence (a single, haunting spotlight shone on the floor where she would have been dancing).

The film's final words and images were back at the train accident scene, where Vicky was clinging to life and hugging Julian. Lying on a stretcher, she requested that he remove her malevolent red ballet shoes before she expired.

Vicky: Julian?
Julian: Yes, my darling?
Vicky: Take off the red shoes.

She had become an imperiled, martyred victim of the red shoes, her full devotion to art, and to her dictatorial mentor. There was a final closeup of her bloody legs (and tights) and feet wearing the shoes, as they were removed. Julian devotedly kissed one leg. The last image was of the 'red shoes' on stage, highlighted in a spotlight at the conclusion of the ballet. A solitary Lermontov viewed the production from his opera box.

The single word 'Finis' ended the film.

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