How the Classic Ballets of “Birds of Paradise” Reflect the Plot of the Film: Amazon Prime Review
This article contains major spoilers for Birds of paradise.
For a ballet film, there isn’t a lot of dancing in Birds of paradise. What there is a lot of talk about ballet that could leave those who haven’t groomed their bleeding feet in a grimy Parisian boarding school scratch their heads without a bun.
Sarah Adina Smith’s fundamentals Birds of paradise, from the novel Shining burning stars by AK Small and streaming now on Amazon Prime, may seem familiar: two ballerinas battling for first place in their institution through a series of wit and betrayals. It’s even littered with the same clichés as that other bird-named dance thriller: a brutal director (Jacqueline Bisset), a bad girl corrupting her straight ribbon peer, a bossy mother (Caroline Goodall), and abundant sexual tension. But at the same time Black Swan recounts his action through a ballet (Swan Lake), Birds of paradise stages several classic works during its performance.
The dancers from the best boarding school in Paris compete for the Prize: a contract for a student to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet. Kate (Diana Silvers) is new to school from the United States, but her fiercest competition is Marine (Kristine Froseth) or M (short for “Marionette” for the many people who play her puppeteer). The young dancers are sent home one by one until only 10 are left to perform for the prize, when the students are paired up to perform a pas de deux of Romeo and Juliet.
As any high school student across the country can attest, the plot of Shakespeare’s most popular play needs no explanation. Its implementation in Birds of paradise, however, is a bit more confusing. While one might call M and Kate doomed lovers, the relevant theme is death.
Try as M and Kate might, the school tournament will only reward a job for one dancer, so M takes the metaphorical knife and sacrifices her chance to win the prize for Kate. Although none of the duets performing in the competition actually feature Prokofiev’s score from the Romeo and Juliet ballet (instead, it’s the pulsating beat of Chromatics’ “Whispers in the Hall”), M’s solo performance does – fittingly, the track played during Juliet’s death. Kate wins, but does not realize until three years later that her passion died that night alongside M’s career at the Paris Opera Ballet.
Another classical dance piece featured in Birds of paradise is Giselle, a mid-19th century French masterpiece that Kate and M branded until halfway through the film. The girls try to distill some of the intrigue of the ballet to the viewers through a momentary re-enactment (Kate: “Giselle! My love! Don’t go!” M: “I have to leave you or my heart will suffer for eternity! “). What they leave out is that Giselle is the tragic story of a sick peasant who falls in love with an already engaged prince. When the heroine discovers her love’s imminent nuptials, she dances so hard that she dies. In act two, the prince goes to Giselle’s grave where an army of undead and despised women, called Wilis, plan to assassinate her. Giselle stands up to protect her beloved prince for bittersweet results (spoiler: Giselle stays dead, prince stays alive).
Love, passion, death. Classics that girls meet at school repeatedly conjure up the sinister specter of loss, but unlike Juliette, Gisellethe heroine lasts a little longer than her funeral. After all, what could be more powerful than passion? A passion that resuscitates the dead, which Kate and M know well. M tells Kate that she continues to dance to rekindle the spirit of her late brother and Kate reveals that she is doing the same for her late mother. More importantly, the two repeatedly fight the scythe of their school, their own army of Wilis who slaughter the ballerinas’ dreams with cruelty and misogyny (“What makes a perfect prima ballerina dancer is total submission”, a fuckboy dancer said to Kate). M manages to escape, but Kate is a victim.
When they reunite years after The Prize, M praises them: “Blessed is she who falls. Blessed is the one who resuscitates.
This platitude is delivered outside the theater after Kate plays the lead role in Bird of Fire. This work from the beginning of the 20th century, composed by Stravinsky and choreographed by Michel Fokine for the dance company of the Ballets Russes de Paris, tells the story of a flock of mythical birds. One is captured by a man in love, who tears off a feather. The feather will call the bird to his service if he needs it, which he does when he finds himself in a pickle with an evil wizard. She helps him defeat the wizard and is then freed from him, but the ballet finale is more concerned with the man’s plight and his rekindled love.
Kate’s flame is fading, her feathers torn off by the ballet world and her cruel politics. But her stolen plumage is the consequence of what she first stole from Mr.
“You really forced me to face myself,” M said to Kate. “And I feel free now. Hope you find it too.
M switched to choreography in a Euphoria– a glitter and neon club, Jungle, where revelers must consume a psychedelic worm to enter and watch the ballet. The final ballet of the film is the one choreographed by M, with Kate in the lead. It is inspired by a story Kate’s father told her about gods covering the Earth in a blanket, blocking the sky and leaving the animals on the planet in fear. A brave bird flies to the sky and makes a hole in the blanket. Then he picks a million more. The gods are in awe of the bird; they agree to only cover the Earth half of each day with the now star-speckled blanket.
In the work, Kate throws herself to the ground and hammers the Earth for having held it there like the corpses of Romeo, Juliet and Giselle. Her heart was beating faster and faster, eventually shining through her skin. She floats on the ground and climbs in the rafters of the theater, finally free.