The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky

"Terrible"

The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky Review


In 1916, acclaimed Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky had a mental breakdown, which he recorded in a series of four notebooks over a seven-week period. Director Paul Cox uses excerpts from these journals as a basis for The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky (also known as just Nijinsky), a film that explores the dancer's descent into madness using images seen from Nijinsky's viewpoint. The film deals, in part, with the beauty and tragedy of decay. It is quite terrible.

Viewers suffer through a 92-minute montage of clichéd images -- fields of wheat, diaphanous skirts, birds in flight -- as narrator Derek Jacobi reads from Nijinsky's diaries. As one might imagine, insane ramblings make for poor monologue. Evidence such insight as: "I am feeling in the flesh, and not intellect in the flesh... Beauty cannot be discussed; beauty cannot be criticized. I love beauty because I feel it." After an hour or so, you'll want to scratch at your own skin for diversion.

The documentary, and I use the term with skepticism, is an art piece. As such it is not intended as narrative. But in fact, you'll learn more from the one-paragraph epilogue flashed on the screen in the last 20 seconds than you will from the rest of the film. There are many layers of symbolism -- bird imagery, religious iconography, blood, and so on -- that the viewer will not be inspired to untangle. Perhaps there's something there, but somehow one tends to doubt it.

There are a few lovely scenes in which dancers re-create bits of Nijinky's choreographic work, but these are far overwhelmed by the chloroformic shots of bubbling streams and light streaming through tree branches that comprise the rest of the movie. Jacobi's narration is apt, and his considerable talent lends tragedy to lines that would otherwise seem comic. Still, the film would work much better as a video installation in a museum, where viewers would be free to leave. Immediately.

Feelin' blue.



The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 25th April 2002

Distributed by: Wellspring Media Inc.

Production compaines: Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC), Illumination Films, MusicArtsDance Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Nijinsky (voice) (as Sir Derek Jacobi), as Romola, as Oscar, as Doctor

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