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Giselle (2013), Movie

Giselle (2013) 2013

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Director Toa Fraser (No. 2Dean Spanley) brings The Royal New Zealand Ballet to the big screen, capturing their acclaimed production of the two-act classic Giselle (first performed in 1841). Features a score by the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra. More

Filmed over two nights at Auckland’s Aotea Centre, with additional filming taking place at Wellington’s St James Theatre and on the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s tour of China, the film is a collaboration between the Ballet and the NZ Film Commission, having made its world premiere in Auckland as part of the NZ International Film Festival 2013.

Says Fraser: "There's no dialogue - beginning to end it's very much inspired by what the Royal New Zealand Ballet are doing on stage - the music and the movement and the emotion on stage does all the story telling for you... I come from a writing background so it's been very releasing to say I'm not going to write stuff, I'm just going to respond to what's in front of me.  I actually don't know what it is. It's going to be good though." Hide

Starring: Gillian Murphy

Directed by Toa Fraser ('Dean Spanley', 'No. 2', 'Giselle')

Written by Toa Fraser

Documentary, Live Performance | 1hr 45mins | PG | Country of Origin: New Zealand

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36 votes / 4 comments The Talk

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    What say you?

    • Dance Fan

      Saw this at the festival. If you are a fan of ballet then you are in for a treat. stunning.

    • Wanda

      pity Abigail Boyle wasn't in the lead role - much more expressive as a dancer and better actress than Gillian Murphy.

    • Tom

      Wanda, appreciate your support for local (NZ) dancers but Abigail is not even in the same league as Gillian.

    • Lucky

      Seen it - a beautiful, up-close portrayal of the ballet showing not only the physical prowess but also the acting skills of the dancers.

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Flicks.co.nz Review

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Rebecca Barry Hill Flicks Writer

Giselle is among the most theatrical ballets, a ghostly love story requiring the dancers to tell much of the story through facial expression – or perhaps it just felt that way in the hands of such experts. The Royal New Zealand Ballet production toured the country last year, confirming the company’s New York imports Ethan Stiefel (as artistic director and co-choreographer) and his fiancé, Gillian Murphy (in the principal role), as the rock stars of ballet. Co-choreographed by Stiefel and Johan Kobborg of London’s Royal Ballet, Giselle was a triumph of dancing, costuming and stage design, particularly the second half, set in an eerily beautiful underworld. More

The film will no doubt provide fans a worthy souvenir if released on DVD; on the big screen, it inevitably loses the grandeur of going to the ballet – there’s no scent of shoe leather in the air. But with such a reliable filmmaking team, including director Toa Fraser (No. 2), cinematographer Leon Narby (Whale Rider) and producer Matthew Metcalfe (Dean Spanley), the camera is unobtrusive yet intimate. There are lots of lovely close-ups on the dancers, the camera following them as they disappear into the wings.

Fraser has also expanded the experience by interspersing the acts with modern, wistful vignettes featuring Murphy and her talented dance partner, Qi Huan as Albrecht. We see them in contexts removed from the stage: a dreamily filmed meadow, a naturally lit studio, and, during what would be the intermission of the live performance, on a lonely rooftop in Beijing, where the production premiered. Hide

The People's Reviews

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Karma of Giselle

Lucylittle Nobody (?)

Talented New Zealand filmmaker Toa Fraser invited by a successful producer Matthew Metcalfe to direct "Giselle", touched the ballet for the first time in his working career. Renowned master of built on the dialogues psychological concepts , now opened the door into this wordless art form and filled his film with a tense inner dialogue to endlessly continue living and growing in the mind of a thoughtful and emotional viewer.
Incredibly, he, along with his creative team, managed to put in a standard movie time frame two large plots - one is what we know as a ballet "Giselle" itself and the other is a contemporary love story appearing sometimes to completely merge with the very ballet, sometimes - to be separate from it and bring into the movie the breath of other countries, cultures and times.
This second story line frames the events taking place on the stage by building some semantic arches on them, and amazingly coexists with this semi-mythical world of dreams, filling the infinitely sad romantic plot with the new philosophical sense.
Probably, it is correct to define the film "Giselle" as a ballet adaptation, but for me it's not desirable.
Too much has happened since Toa Fraser, while screening in full the interpretation by Johann Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel of the classic Petipa's production, has brought us from the romantic Gothic myth to the modern Shanghai world of contrasts, giving us there an opportunity to experience solitude and to find a solace in meditation, and even more than that, showed us a paradise of green fields of Catskills, where the love once lived, and then plunged us into a soullessness of the New York subway.
Two broken heart stories - one sheds light and casts a shadow on another, although the second one does not have a certain plot, and if it needed at all?
We just know that the two are going through the torment of separation, and in the ballet this state acquires a particular image - a live girl is leaving, being replaced by her ghost.
I do not want to describe in detail perfectly filmed magnificent New Zealand Ballet production, which has already received the highest ratings from the world of ballet critics. Let me just say that the choice of the leading performers - Giselle (Gillian Murphy) and Albrecht (Qi Huang ) somehow turned to be a momentum for the emergence of the second storyline. The world famous American dancer and a talented moved to live and work in New Zealand from his native Beijing heritor of Chinese ballet school, form together a new harmonic consonance producing a resonant echo, which pops-up over the tragic story inherent in the ballet.
The associative sequence caused by the contrast between the red-haired natural magic of Gillian and oriental refinement of Qi leads to the infinity. It is with their differences we feel the fatality of the equal to death separation and earn both its explanation and some sense of karmic predestination.
This invasion of Buddhism into the ballet rooted in the Western European classical myth sheds a new light on the understanding of the story of "Giselle."
What in the original plot appeared to be a consequence of the human actions now looks like a tragic inevitability, and we can't even blame Albrecht, as nothing less than the forces of fate made him pass through the circle of lifetime hell.
Albrecht - Qi Huan - doesn't have enough time to realize how deep his love to Giselle is before she dies broken hearted.
Foreboding hovers over Giselle and her mother, and the famous guessing on the flower is an omen. Gillian Murphy's Giselle has "Wili" in her blood. One can feel the doom reflected in her face, eyes, in all her moves different from other girls of the village. She is too perfect in her dance, and this perfection here works like a fatal imprint.
Albert - Qi Huan - is an embodiment of physical power full of inner nobility, but even Giselle's love can't protect him from the fate, his accidental salvation - in this production only dawn stops revenge of the wilis - happens to be the temporary one, because in the epilogue of the ballet he comes into the woods to the cemetery and surrenders himself to the devilishly beautiful and equally ruthless Myrtha (a frightening gothic character brilliantly embodied by Abigail Boyle) and her retinue.
Such a tragic end finds its confirmation in the second story line emerging through the ballet pores, where the two are separated completely and hopelessly. Their dance of love - the pas de deux from the second act - happens behind the scene, in the rehearsal room, and it reads like a piece of a contemporary story associated with so many lives destroyed by the theatre - this beautiful and ruthless realm of spirits and ghosts more powerful than earthly beings.
All is harmonious in this movie, it is a subject to the higher logic, so the rock ballade by Don MakGlashen embedded in its sound track not seem sacrilege. Its inserts imitating the Buddhist meditation, perfectly fit the film's philosophical concept
"Giselle" turned into a movie has received a new life and a precious and unique interpretation.

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