Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake opens on an inviting note, and is different in its theme and style as compared to the Russian classic. This spectacular ballet reprises Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s work and it has a contemporary feel to it. Choreographed by Matthew Bourne in 1995, Swan Lake continues to mesmerize its audiences even after nineteen years. Ross MacGibbon has directed the performance for the big screen. The 3D-element gives us feeling of what it is like to watch an actual ballet routine.
Swan Lake is exquisite and it is Bourne’s love letter to the fine art of ballet. Not a single dialogue is uttered, and yet a lot is said through dance. We meet a young Prince (Joseph Vaughan), who has nightmares about a swan. However, he can’t explain them to his emotionally distant mother (Nina Goldman). The Queen loves to make public appearances and flirt with other men, often ignoring the needs of her own son. Even after he grows up into a handsome young man (Dominic North), the Prince feels totally disenchanted by his royal duties. A chance meeting with the Girlfriend (Madelaine Brennan) convinces him that he might, after all, find love. But he is shattered when he finds out that she was faking it all along. Determined to kill himself, he goes to a City Park, where he meets the Swan (Richard Winsor), who convinces him otherwise.
This first encounter between the Prince and the Swan, where initial rejection is followed by mutual acceptance, is one of the most-memorable acts in the ballet. This act is remarkable in many ways. The original tutu-clad female swans are replaced with bare-chested male swans. There is a surrealistic charm to the whole act, where the Prince treads a fine line between dream and reality.
Richard Winsor is remarkable as the Swan, and later as the Stranger. His transition from graceful to vociferous is so beautiful, you will wish he’d never leave the stage. Among the other artists, Nina Goldman’s portrayal as the part cruel, part volatile Queen is elegant, even though she does not have a lot of dance routines. The combined ensemble gives a dedicated performance, which takes the act to a whole new level.
Matthew Bourne introduces elements of Disco and Salsa on two separate occasions, while never deviating from the original dance form, ballet. Be it the Opera House or a seedy bar, the set pieces are minimalist in their design, and appear gorgeous in 3D. The seamless transition between the acts is highlighted by the excellent lighting work. This adds a whole new layer to every performer’s personality. Be it large silhouettes or the subtle glow of the moon in the park, everything about the lighting in Swan Lake is perfect. However, there are some visible slips in choreography, but they can be forgiven considering how brilliant every dancer is.
Why should you watch the film?
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is worth every minute of your time, and then some. The sheer stamina on display and the musical crescendo in every act make a grand statement that you should not miss. A heartwarming story, a perfect ballet routine, incredible music! What more could one ask for? This modern-day adaptation of Swan Lake is every bit as good as the original, and is definitely here to stay.