Review: Giselle (2013)

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.

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.

‘Giselle (2013)’ Movie Times