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The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky
The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky
Actors: Derek Jacobi, Delia Silvan, Chris Haywood, Hans Sonneveld, Oliver Streeton
Director: Paul Cox
Genres: Drama
NR     2002     1hr 35min

To the degree that one artist can bring out the best in another, Nijinsky is an inspired masterpiece. Australian director Paul Cox has not fashioned a biography of Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky (1880-1950), nor is ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Derek Jacobi, Delia Silvan, Chris Haywood, Hans Sonneveld, Oliver Streeton
Director: Paul Cox
Creators: Hans Sonneveld, Kevin Lucas, Aanya Whitehead, Paul Cox, William T. Marshall, Vaslav Nijinsky
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Studio: Fox Lorber
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 12/03/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2002
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Mesmerizing and visually stunning
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 02/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This film is a visualized version of the diary Nijinsky wrote while living in a sanitarium in Switzerland. Derek Jacobi reads from an English translation of the diary. The film, like the diary, assumes you know who Nijinsky was, the roles he created and performed for the Ballets Russes, and about his complex relationships with his mentor Serge Diaghilev and his wife Romola. Taken as a whole, this film could be seen as a contemplation on the fine line between creativity and madness. The filmmakers have done a good job of selecting which passages to use. They neither avoided nor gravitated toward the most shocking ones (the sexual nature of the dancer's relationship with Diaghliev is clear, as are his tendency toward "self abuse" and the frequenting of prostitutes). Also apparent are his grandiosity (he virtually claims equality with God) and his pathetic need to be loved by an audience. The film is populated by dancers portraying the characters that were created on Nijinsky--such as, the spirit of the Rose, Petrouchka, the blue god, and the Faun. In the context of the readings from the diary, these characters seem more than ever to be fractured parts of the great dancer's inner essence. As arty and "high concept" as this sounds, this really is a beautiful and interesting film. Don't, however, expect it to answer any questions you have about the life of Nijinsky. It is, after all, Nijinsky's version of Nijinsky. One moment he seems to be a seer in the tradition of the poets Baudelaire or Rimbaud, the next, a self-deluded fool. Either way, he was clearly a creative genius whose flame burned brightly but all too briefly (his peak years as a dancer and choreographer were from 1906 to 1913; he died in a sanitarium in 1950). If you can enjoy films that don't fill in all the blanks, there's much in Paul Cox's NIJINSKY to appreciate."
Read the book instead
F. Orion Pozo | Raleigh, NC USA | 01/03/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)

"In the year 1918 Vaslav Nikinsky, the premier dancer of the Ballet Russe, wrote a diary that probed his inner feelings as he lost touch with reality. By the end of the year he was in a psychiatric hospital where he stayed until his death in 1950. The film Nijinsky is an impressionistic look into the mind of this great dancer during this crucial year. The only voice in the film is Derek Jacobi's readings of excepts from this diary. Even in the segments of the film where actors play out scenes from his life they are silent. This movie is a case of the whole being less than the sum of the parts. No one ever filmed Nijinsky dancing so we have no original footage of his art. The director, Paul Cox, uses the still photographs of Nijinsky, but to fill in most of the footage he uses a collage of film clips of storks flying, fields of flowers and other images to represent Nijinsky's state of mind. Derek Jacobi's reading is wonderful, yet the repetition of images that accompanies it quickly becomes boring. While the music is lovely, the dancing scenes that accompany it are wooden and do not capture the magic of Nijinsky's art. Many of the dances are performed outside in a forest or inside with few sets. Only one dance, where the two dancers are nude, is beautifully done. Their nudity compliments the bare stage and their movements are the most fluid and graceful of all the dance pieces. For a man going mad, Nijinsky's words are sublimely spiritual. Much of his writing is about his identifying with and being close to god. He writes against the bloody World War that is going on outside. His hatred of violence has become so great that he has become a vegetarian. He speaks of how much better he feels without animals as part of his diet. One of the great horrors of this film is that the director has a sheep killed on film in close up we see the blood and death of this animal. In summary, the dance and reenactments from Nijinsky's life are disappointing. The collage of images is repetitive and boring. Jabobi's reading and the music are delightful. This would have made a better CD than a DVD. When the movie gets boring, just close your eyes and listen."
An homage, not a literal documentary
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 01/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"NIJINSKI is a lovely miscegenation of the arts - literature (in that the spoken word is only the pages from Nijinski's diary), film, photography from Nijinski's time plus mood photography from the present, dance, pantomime, music, and tableaux. The result is a mood piece that allows us to pause and listen to the meanderings of a tortured soul who once was the darling of the ballet world but who succumbed to 'madness'. The diary entries are read with great sensitivity by Derek Jacobi. Probably only an artist of his caliber could make the rather repetitive and bland words come to life. We learn little about the dances Nijinski created, or about his journey with Diaghilev, or the other artits with whom his work is so closely associated (Stravinsky, Debussy, Berlioz, Picasso, etc): we do hear a lot about the Russian soil, about his being at one with God, about his wife and child. The visuals are elegant, especially the pas de trois nude ballet sequence filmed in the nude as a 'revision' or the ballet Jeux. The real problem with this film, for me, is the insensitive musical score. We see excerpts of 'The Spectre of the Rose' danced to irrational music, 'Afternoon of a Faun' mimed to unrelated music rather than Debussy, and most blatantly we see repeated use of his 'Petrouchka' ballet/character without a note of Stravinsky! Odd and disruptive. But the film as a whole is a beautiful experience and in insight to the dark side of a brilliant artist whose time before the public was far too short: the majority of his physical life was in an asylum. But his choreography lives on and this memoir revisits the remarkable influence of one of the important innovators of 20th century art."
A Journey into the Interior of a Soul
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 02/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is not a dance film. This is not a biography of Nijinsky. Instead it is the examination of a great mind. Derek Jacobi becomes the "voice", reciting intimate diary entries of this enigmatic dancer - poet - madman. Visuals include vintage photographs, natural landscapes, close-ups, and dance recreations. Unfortunately, we can never know exactly how Nijinsky danced but with this film we can experience how Nijinsky "thought." He sees himself as one with God, one with Beauty, and he trembles at a world gone awry. This film is unique - a genre unto itself - and for this reason I give it five stars.

Viewers interested in the BALLET RUSSE might consider buying teh following VHS or DVD: "Ballet Russe," "Nijinsky," "Tribute to Nijinsky" and "Return of the Firebird". All are worthwhie movies but none are as haunting or memorable as this strange film."