Based on the fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Red Shoes is a 1948 film adaptation co-written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The story follows a ballerina who must choose between pursuing a career in ballet and a burgeoning romance with a composer. Moira Shearer makes her film debut as Victoria “Vicky” Page, an unknown dancer from an aristocratic background. Though her story is based on a fairytale, Vicky’s journey is often dangerous and has severe consequences. The film crosses over into horror-thriller territory whenever Vicky makes a choice, one way or another. (Fans of Black Swan will likely enjoy The Red Shoes, and vice versa). Even so, elements of the fairytale structure shine through, especially in the dialogue. Here are some of the best quotes from The Red Shoes.
Boris Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?
Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Boris Lermontov: Well, I don’t know exactly why… but I must.
Vicky: That’s my answer, too.
Boris Lermontov: You cannot have it both ways. A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer. Never.
Boris Lermontov: Don’t forget, a great impression of simplicity can only be achieved by great agony of body and spirit.
Boris Lermontov: The Ballet of the Red Shoes is from a fairytale by Hans Andersen. It is the story of a young girl who is devoured with an ambition to attend a dance in a pair of red shoes. She gets the shoes and goes to the dance. For a time, all goes well and she is very happy. At the end of the evening, she is tired and wants to go home, but the red shoes are not tired. In fact, the red shoes are never tired. They dance her out into the street, they dance her over the mountains and valleys, through fields and forests, through night and day. Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the red shoes go on.
Julian Craster: What happens in the end?
Boris Lermontov: Oh, in the end, she dies.
Julian Craster: One day when I’m old, I want some lovely young girl to say to me, “Tell me, where in your long life, Mr. Craster, were you most happy?” And I shall say, ‘Well, my dear, I never knew the exact place. It was somewhere on the Mediterranean. I was with Victoria Page.” “What?” she will say. “Do you mean the famous dancer?” I will nod. “Yes, my dear, I do. Then she was quite young, comparatively unspoiled. We were, I remember, very much in love.”
Boris Lermontov: How would you define ballet, Lady Neston?
Lady Neston: Well, one might call it the poetry of motion perhaps, or…
Boris Lermontov: One might. But for me, it is a great deal more. For me, it is a religion.
Boris Lermontov: It is worth remembering that it is much more disheartening to have to steal than to be stolen from.