Film review: Òran Na H-Eala

As the BFI continue to pay tribute to the British film-making partnership of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, collectively known as ‘The Archers’, I was pleased to hear about this short and be asked to review it, especially as The Red Shoes is one of my favourite films and certainly one of the high point of dance on film.

Shannon Davidson brings Moira Shearer, ballerina turned actress, back to life in this affectionate short which both adds context and plays homage to Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes. Her interpretation is that of a young artist who is passionate about both her craft and her destiny.

Writer-director Steve Exeter imagines a scenario where the ambitious young Scottish dancer aspires to major success in the ballet but constantly finds herself in the shadow of her colleague and competitor Margot Fonteyn.

As Shearer resists the approach of the two men who just want her “as a puppet to gaze luridly into the lens”, she becomes intertwined with the character of Vicky Page, where to dance is everything. 

Poster image for Song of the Swan

For Moira, being a movie star was never in the picture, but that is what we remember her for seventy-five years on. Davidson’s performance both echoes the classic look of the original design and costumes while giving her ‘Moira’ a modern, confessional tone as she speaks directly to camera and sings a torch song.

If you have watched and enjoyed The Red Shoes, you will have a lot of fun spotting the parallels between scenes which even extend to the opening credits, and of course there are iconic shots which you will both anticipate and recognise.

Òran Na H-Eala is a beautifully shot and realised production which even manages to carefully cast its Powell and Pressburger to resemble their real-life counterparts, middle-aged men who resemble accountants more than inventive and imaginative creatives.

As they watch every move as Shearer rehearses and considers, they are every inch the shadowy influencers we find in the main film itself in Lermontov.

At less than ten minutes, the pacing and editing have to be spot-on and I was gripped throughout.

Òran Na H-Eala or Song of the Swan is available via Vimeo on Demand from Full Bodied Productions.


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