Wow this is a hard one to review but here we go, I will do my best.
The film starts with an old one-eyed man working in his workshop making many small trinkets. We then move onto a magical Christmas Eve, Clara joins the family at their annual Christmas ball eagerly awaiting the arrival of her godfather Herr Drosselmeier and his delightful presents. Upon his arrival we see the one-eyed tinkerer and she receives a little wooden nutcracker shaped as a soldier. Clara’s brother Fritz then breaks it with a toy sword and to prevent her from being upset Drosselmeir repairs it with his handkerchief. Clara and Fritz are then sent to bed but just before midnight Clara returns downstairs and finds her nutcracker and places it on a shelf. As the clock strikes midnight she start to shrink and that is where the true magic begins, leading her into a wonderful world of tin soldiers, rat kings and many other characters in this tale of whimsy, delight and even love.
This is truly a wonderful piece and I am not ashamed to say it is one of my favorite ballets. The director Carroll Ballard is most famous for The Black Stallion and was also the second unit director on Star Wars The New Hope. He took what was a classic that everyone knew and just by changing a few details, like the length of Drosselmeir’s nose for one example, managed to add a darker almost sinister side to it. A massive congratulations also to the writer of this spectacular reimagination, Maurice Sendak who is known mainly for his wonderful children’s book Where The Wild Things Are.
The cast of this film were all members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Hugh Bigney portrayed Herr Drosselmeir/ The Pasha with a perfect mix of kind hearted innocence and sinister malcontent. Vanessa Sharp played the young Clara with the type of airs and professionalism that is expected of a ballerina twice her age. A perfect choice.
I would also like to take a moment to talk about the phenomenal acting of Patricia Barker who brings the character of adult Clara to life in away I did not think was possible. She displayed such grace and movement that drew you further into this masterpiece.
I think that this piece was very well done and I must admit I eagerly await its release, so I can share the experience of watching it alongside my children as christmas draws closer. This is in my eyes a perfect envisionment of Tchaikovsky’s composition.