Nijinsky


2h 5m 1980

Brief Synopsis

Onstage, Nijinsky, the most celebrated dancer of the early 20th century, was in flawless control. Offstage, he was in turmoil, torn between the ballerina he married and the domineering mentor he loved.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1980
Location
Monaco; Sicily, Italy; Hungary

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m

Synopsis

Onstage, Nijinsky, the most celebrated dancer of the early 20th century, was in flawless control. Offstage, he was in turmoil, torn between the ballerina he married and the domineering mentor he loved.

Crew

Yves Amoureux

Assistant Director

Leon Bakst

Other

Chris Barnes

Editor

Irina Baronova

Other

Alan Barrett

Costumes

Alan Barrett

Costume Designer

Pierluigi Basile

Art Director

Nicholas Beriosoff

Other

Tivadar Bertalan

Art Director

John Blezard

Production Designer

Alexander Borodin

Music

Tony Brandt

Assistant Director

Al Burgess

Production Supervisor

Bert Cann

Photography

William Chappell

Other

Graham Cottle

Assistant Director

Claude Debussy

Music

Wayne Fitzgerald

Titles

Mikhail Fokine

Choreographer

John Fraser

Research And Content Consultant

Nicholas Georgiadis

Scenery

William Griffith

Advisor

Geoffrey Guy

Other

William Hartman

Sound Editor

Pat Hay

Hair

David Hersey

Lighting

Louise Jaffe

Script Supervisor

Allan James

Location Manager

Peter James

Set Decorator

Howard Jeffrey

Associate Producer

Meinir Jones-lewis

Hair

Nora Kaye

Producer

John Lanchbery

Music

Ariel Levy

Assistant Director

Ken Lintott

Makeup

Kenneth Macmillan

Choreographer

Colin Manning

Key Grip

Bernard Mazauric

Production Manager

Eva Meszaros

Production Manager

Ildiko Molnar

Assistant Director

Romola Nijinsky

Book As Source Material

Vaslav Nijinsky

Choreographer

Vaslav Nijinsky

Book As Source Material

Stanley O'toole

Producer

Luciano Palermo

Assistant Director

Luciano Pesciaroli

Production Manager

Michael E Polakow

Assistant Editor

William H. Reynolds

Editor

George Richardson

Art Director

Nikolai Rimsky-korsakov

Music

Tony Roman

Art Director

Antoine Sabarros

Assistant Director

Danilo Sabatini

Production

Harry Saltzman

Executive Producer

Elisabeth Schooling

Other

Robert Schumann

Music

Rose Tobias Shaw

Casting

Douglas Slocombe

Dp/Cinematographer

Douglas Slocombe

Director Of Photography

Theodore Soderberg

Sound

Judit Somogyi

Production

Richard Sperber

Sound Editor

Igor Stravinsky

Music

Cyril Swern

Sound

Timea Veress

Assistant Director

Chic Waterson

Camera Operator

Carl Maria Von Weber

Music

Sidney Weiss

Other

Paul Wells

Sound

Hugh Wheeler

Screenplay

Douglas O. Williams

Sound

Vincent Winter

Location Manager

Scott Wodehouse

Production Manager

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1980
Location
Monaco; Sicily, Italy; Hungary

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m

Articles

Nijinsky - NIJINSKY - 1980 Biopic on the Legendary Russian Ballet Dancer


The story of the greatest ballet dancer of the 20th century, known for his remarkable stage presence, technical skill and for bringing ballet into the modern era, Nijinsky (1980) follows the famed Russian dancer over the course of a tumultuous life.

In many ways, Vaslav Nijinsky (George De La Pena), as he is represented in this Herbert Ross film, is the iconic tortured artist, vivified and doomed by his art. While his performances in "Jeux" (1913) and "The Rite of Spring" with music by Igor Stravinsky are heralded for their originality and power, much in the dancer's life is a shambles. Though the ladies beat a path to his door (the dancer was such an object of erotic fascination, underwear was often stolen from his dressing room, according to accounts of the time), Nijinsky has been long involved in a homosexual relationship with his mentor and the director of the Ballets Russes Sergei Diaghilev (Alan Bates) who alternately adores and rebuffs the young, volatile dancer. An advocate for Russian art, both dance and the visual arts, Diaghilev traveled abroad to showcase talent like Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova and also introduced Western arts to Russia.

Though clearly seduced by Diaghilev's charisma and power, Nijinsky also shows signs of conflict about his homosexuality in Ross's film. Vacationing in Greece with Diaghilev, Nijinsky asks him about women he has slept with, clearly curious about the road not taken. "We are what we are and we should never forget it" says Diaghilev. Though the older, socially-prominent Diaghilev is secure in his life's choices, the exhausting demands of the stage play havoc with Nijinsky's mercurial sense of identity. In one of the film's most provocative moments -- based on an actual moment in the dancer's life -- Nijinsky acts out masturbatory gestures onstage while playing the faun in "The Afternoon of a Faun" inspired by Stephane Mallarme's poem. The dance caused a scandal when it was performed in 1912, though prominent artists including August Rodin, Odilon Redon and writer Marcel Proust defended Nijinsky. Subjected to boos and jeers and angrily confronted by Diaghilev, Nijinsky is mystified over his actions, as if driven by some force outside himself.

When a beautiful, wealthy Hungarian countess and ballerina, Romola de Pulsky (Leslie Browne), expresses romantic interest in Nijinsky, he is seduced, perhaps, by the chance to live a "normal" life. In short order the couple are married, though the shift from homosexuality to heterosexuality proves disastrous for Nijinsky.

American Ballet Theater soloist George De La Pena is a believable combination of haughtiness as a world-renowned dancer and vulnerability as a young man afraid he is succumbing to the mental illness that devoured his own brother. As his mentor, Alan Bates is cold and impervious, willing to cast Nijinsky aside in his hour of greatest need. Ross's goddaughter Leslie Browne, who received an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1977 ballet classic A Turning Point is less effective as the scheming socialite who wants nothing more than to claim Nijinsky for her own. Once she has him, de Pulsky watches the dancer slowly crumble, and -- in an unexpected turn of events -- finds an inner-resolve and protectiveness that drives her to care for her husband.

Now a screen icon, Jeremy Irons made his film debut as the petulant, baby-faced Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine peeved at having to surrender his choreographer duties when Nijinsky becomes interested in trying his hand.

Nijinsky was Herbert Ross's second film after The Turning Point focused on the world of dance. The Turning Point was also Ross's first and only Academy Award director nomination. Ross had worked with Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Turning Point, but Baryshnikov turned down the role of Nijinsky when it was offered. Ross was a former dancer and choreographer who understood the emotional stresses and also the intense highs of the performer's life which he ably translated to the screen. His big Hollywood break came in 1968 when he choreographed Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

Often surprisingly tepid considering the extremes it depicts -- intense love affairs, schizophrenia, scandalous performances, copious sex -- Nijinsky is the episodic chronicle of a fascinating dancer's life more than an insight into his subjective experience of the world. The main character remains consistently, disappointingly at arm's length.

After such a celebrated life, Nijinsky's unhappy descent into mental illness was all the more disturbing. Some speculated that Nijinsky's tremendous ambition and the anxiety involved in keeping his homosexuality secret explained his schizophrenia. Ross suggests in his film that it was largely Diaghilev's abandonment that drove Nijinsky to the depths of madness. Nijinsky spent the remainder of his life in institutions and finally died in a London asylum in 1950.

For more information about Nijinsky, visit Olive Films. To order Nijinsky, go to TCM Shopping.

by Felicia Feaster
Nijinsky - Nijinsky - 1980 Biopic On The Legendary Russian Ballet Dancer

Nijinsky - NIJINSKY - 1980 Biopic on the Legendary Russian Ballet Dancer

The story of the greatest ballet dancer of the 20th century, known for his remarkable stage presence, technical skill and for bringing ballet into the modern era, Nijinsky (1980) follows the famed Russian dancer over the course of a tumultuous life. In many ways, Vaslav Nijinsky (George De La Pena), as he is represented in this Herbert Ross film, is the iconic tortured artist, vivified and doomed by his art. While his performances in "Jeux" (1913) and "The Rite of Spring" with music by Igor Stravinsky are heralded for their originality and power, much in the dancer's life is a shambles. Though the ladies beat a path to his door (the dancer was such an object of erotic fascination, underwear was often stolen from his dressing room, according to accounts of the time), Nijinsky has been long involved in a homosexual relationship with his mentor and the director of the Ballets Russes Sergei Diaghilev (Alan Bates) who alternately adores and rebuffs the young, volatile dancer. An advocate for Russian art, both dance and the visual arts, Diaghilev traveled abroad to showcase talent like Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova and also introduced Western arts to Russia. Though clearly seduced by Diaghilev's charisma and power, Nijinsky also shows signs of conflict about his homosexuality in Ross's film. Vacationing in Greece with Diaghilev, Nijinsky asks him about women he has slept with, clearly curious about the road not taken. "We are what we are and we should never forget it" says Diaghilev. Though the older, socially-prominent Diaghilev is secure in his life's choices, the exhausting demands of the stage play havoc with Nijinsky's mercurial sense of identity. In one of the film's most provocative moments -- based on an actual moment in the dancer's life -- Nijinsky acts out masturbatory gestures onstage while playing the faun in "The Afternoon of a Faun" inspired by Stephane Mallarme's poem. The dance caused a scandal when it was performed in 1912, though prominent artists including August Rodin, Odilon Redon and writer Marcel Proust defended Nijinsky. Subjected to boos and jeers and angrily confronted by Diaghilev, Nijinsky is mystified over his actions, as if driven by some force outside himself. When a beautiful, wealthy Hungarian countess and ballerina, Romola de Pulsky (Leslie Browne), expresses romantic interest in Nijinsky, he is seduced, perhaps, by the chance to live a "normal" life. In short order the couple are married, though the shift from homosexuality to heterosexuality proves disastrous for Nijinsky. American Ballet Theater soloist George De La Pena is a believable combination of haughtiness as a world-renowned dancer and vulnerability as a young man afraid he is succumbing to the mental illness that devoured his own brother. As his mentor, Alan Bates is cold and impervious, willing to cast Nijinsky aside in his hour of greatest need. Ross's goddaughter Leslie Browne, who received an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1977 ballet classic A Turning Point is less effective as the scheming socialite who wants nothing more than to claim Nijinsky for her own. Once she has him, de Pulsky watches the dancer slowly crumble, and -- in an unexpected turn of events -- finds an inner-resolve and protectiveness that drives her to care for her husband. Now a screen icon, Jeremy Irons made his film debut as the petulant, baby-faced Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine peeved at having to surrender his choreographer duties when Nijinsky becomes interested in trying his hand. Nijinsky was Herbert Ross's second film after The Turning Point focused on the world of dance. The Turning Point was also Ross's first and only Academy Award director nomination. Ross had worked with Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Turning Point, but Baryshnikov turned down the role of Nijinsky when it was offered. Ross was a former dancer and choreographer who understood the emotional stresses and also the intense highs of the performer's life which he ably translated to the screen. His big Hollywood break came in 1968 when he choreographed Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. Often surprisingly tepid considering the extremes it depicts -- intense love affairs, schizophrenia, scandalous performances, copious sex -- Nijinsky is the episodic chronicle of a fascinating dancer's life more than an insight into his subjective experience of the world. The main character remains consistently, disappointingly at arm's length. After such a celebrated life, Nijinsky's unhappy descent into mental illness was all the more disturbing. Some speculated that Nijinsky's tremendous ambition and the anxiety involved in keeping his homosexuality secret explained his schizophrenia. Ross suggests in his film that it was largely Diaghilev's abandonment that drove Nijinsky to the depths of madness. Nijinsky spent the remainder of his life in institutions and finally died in a London asylum in 1950. For more information about Nijinsky, visit Olive Films. To order Nijinsky, go to TCM Shopping. by Felicia Feaster

Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)


Sir Alan Bates, the versatile British actor, who held a distinguished career on both stage and screen, via a string of outstanding roles in both classical (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen) and contemporary (Pinter, Osborne, Stoppard) drama, died of pancreatic cancer on December 27th in London. He was 69.

Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district.

The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future.

Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney.

For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972).

Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979).

By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990).

Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)

Sir Alan Bates, the versatile British actor, who held a distinguished career on both stage and screen, via a string of outstanding roles in both classical (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen) and contemporary (Pinter, Osborne, Stoppard) drama, died of pancreatic cancer on December 27th in London. He was 69. Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district. The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future. Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney. For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979). By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990). Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring March 1, 1980

Re-released in United States on Video November 16, 1994

Released in United States Spring March 1, 1980

Re-released in United States on Video November 16, 1994