Ballroom Dancer Movie Review

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Danish filmmakers Bonke and Koefoed keep their cameras so intimate that this movie feels more like an intensely emotional drama than a documentary. They seem to be holding on for the ride, letting their subject take them in unexpected directions. And this makes the film thoroughly engaging to watch, because it offers more than a fly-on-the-wall look at a ballroom dancer: it's an exploration of the artistic process, warts and all.

It has been 10 years since Slavik was the World Latin Dance champion, and he can no longer bear to watch his ex Joanna and her new partner Michael rule the ballroom dance floors. Still in peak physical shape at 34, he partners with his girlfriend Anna to take them on and reclaim the title. Their technical and artistic skills are undeniable, but Slavik's moody perfectionism threatens to undo everything he has worked for. In his quest for victory, he mercilessly criticises Anna during competitions in Moscow and Britain. And now she's seriously thinking about leaving him before the next big event in Hong Kong.

There's no way the filmmakers could have known where this story would go when they started following Slavik's comeback attempt, but they clearly saw potential in his mercurial personality. And indeed, he often seems so self-involved that we can't understand why Anna ever started working with him, although there are hints that they were happy before his obsessive return to competition. Most of what we see is passive-aggressive martyrdom as he relentlessly torments Anna and everyone else around him. Obviously, watching his emotional collapse is gripping.

And it's the intimate nature of the filming that makes it so compelling to watch. Bonke and Koefoeld never cut away from even the most painful interaction, which lets us see Slavik's astonishing talent, mental instability and gift for dramatics. Sometimes all of this feels far too invasive, including some deeply personal moments between Slavik and Anna. But the filmmakers never manipulate the material, showing it without narration or analysis and very little background information. And most telling is how Slavik and Anna are able to express their feelings much more movingly through dance than they are through words.

Rich Cline

Cast & Crew

Director : Christian Bonke, Andreas Koefoed

Producer : Jakob Jonck

Starring : Slavik Kryklyvyy, Anna Melnikova, Joanna Leunis, Michael Malitowski

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Comments

Ballroom Dancer Rating

" Good "

Rating: 12, 2011

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