LADY OF THE CAMELIAS is a silent choreographic evocation of the novel by Alexandre Dumas interwoven with a tale by Abbe Prevost entitled Manon Lescaut. An older woman (Marcia Haydee), outfitted in black, enters a room which is being emptied of its contents, then stares at a portrait of
herself from an earlier era. The room quickly fills up with silent mourners, who have come as much to revive their memories as they have to pay their respects to the catatonic woman in black. A young blond man (Ivan Liska) is so overwhelmed by memories rekindled by the portrait that he passes out.
He is then transported in time to relive his agonizing relationship with this woman. His liaisons with her are as passionate as they are ephemeral, and afterwards leave him immobilized with a sense of despair so severe that he does not recover until his next meeting with her. Her rendezvous with
Liska are so brief that their moments together take on an almost illusory quality, and her subsequent fantasies are gripped by a predominant mood of helplessness. His yearnings, on the other hand, present themselves in more hopeful, carefully constructed fantasies. Eventually fate sweeps her into
a rival's arms before returning her to her designated spot as the center of attention. This fuels the frustration he feels, and he sends her a letter of rejection. She becomes utterly disconsolate, her sorrow so boundless that it leads to her death. It is only while reading her diary after she has
passed away that Liska discovers the depths of her love for him.
LADY OF THE CAMELIAS is a hauntingly beautiful rendition by American-born director and choreographer, John Neumeier, of his own magical ballet. The lead performance by Marcia Haydee is truly remarkable, not only for her dance, but for her presence before the camera. She possesses a range of
gestures and emotions that conveys both an enormous sense of pride as well as an acute awareness of loss. The thinness of her face, the sadness of her eyes, and the inversion of her mouth collectively underscore the presence of an extraordinary sensuality. Her partner, Ivan Liska, conveys a depth
of feeling, but his range is too limited to sustain interest in his part for such a lengthy silent film. Neumeier's settings are strikingly rich, each dominated by a single, vivid color which is presented in a multiplicity of tonal gradations and accented by a striking focal image that appears in
a contrasting hue. As the ballet shifts between the illusory and the real, the imagined and the experienced, the unblinking eye of the camera captures the magical transformation of colors and costumes, as well as the whirling, uninterrupted flow of the dance. (Adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1987
- Rating: NR
- Review: LADY OF THE CAMELIAS is a silent choreographic evocation of the novel by Alexandre Dumas interwoven with a tale by Abbe Prevost entitled Manon Lescaut. An older woman (Marcia Haydee), outfitted in black, enters a room which is being emptied of its contents… (more)