The White Crow

Ralph Fiennes, a noted Shakespeare interpreter best known for his appearance as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films, directs this upcoming bio pic of Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko), the famed 20th century ballet dancer widely known as “Lord of the Dance.”

A new arrangement of the second movement of Summer from Antonio Vivaldi’s perennially popular “The Four Seasons” is used here. It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t necessarily an historically informed choice: Nureyev would be much better associated with something like “Giselle” (1841, music composed by Adolphe Adam) or perhaps, Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” or something by compatriot Tchaikovsky.

Still, there is a more mainstream audience that The White Crow is supposedly appealing to. For the purposes of conveying a feeling for the film than assiduously pairing media for semantic consistency, “The Four Seasons” is fine, if not exactly inspired.

It helps, however, that the arrangement has been to some extent remixed and embellished. The trailer begins for the first sixteen seconds with some plaintive arpeggiated piano, meandering in a cadence. At 0:18, as Nureyev is being introduced to the audience (on screen and in the trailer), a rapidly arpeggiated violin bursts into the soundscape, stylistically reminiscent of “The Four Seasons” but not identifiably as such just yet. Some large-spanning piano chords move up and down the keyboard and between the subdominant and tonic keys and down a third to keep things interesting as the title cards carry a bit of biographical exposition.

By 0:56, about the midpoint of the trailer, the harmonies get dicey, the violin clearly yearning and straining to reach resolution. At 1:03 the signature Vivaldi violin line finally enters and removes all doubt as to which piece is on tap to carry the trailer through. What’s interesting here is the way the piece has clearly been precisely chopped up and arranged to maximize synchronicity with the visuals, not to mention the addition of epic percussion and sound effects like reverse cymbals to heighten drama and intrigue.

It would be interesting to know to what extent the choice of “The Four Seasons” is seen as bothersome for its shoehorned pairing (pun intended) – an 18th century Italian concerto paired with  a biopic about a 20th century Russian ballet dancer. Despite this, the effort to dance around (pun also intended) the piece in the first half and the care taken to rearrange the motifs somewhat to closely follow the image do help convey the trailer as an affective whole. Granted, the rhythm of Vivaldi is undeniably infectious here, and this association of rhythm between Vivaldi and ballet is arguably reason enough for their pairing.

The White Crow is set for release in the United Kingdom March 22nd, with the stateside release pending.


– Curtis Perry