Òran na h-Eala (2022) Short Film Review

★★★★★

Directed by: #SteveExeter

Written by: #SteveExeter

Starring: #ShannonDavidson, #AlastairThomsonMills, #AlexWestwood

Short Film Review by: Emily Davison


A young Scottish ballet dancer is torn between her passion and fame.

Òran na h-Eala (2022) is a British short drama which explores the heart and mind of internationally renowned ballet dancer, Moira Shearer, before and after she agreed to star in Powell and Pressburger’s beloved cinema classic The Red Shoes (1948). The film has gained extensive critical acclaim, winning nine awards, with particular praise going towards lead actress Shannon Davidson; the narrative; the score; the cinematography; dance choreography and costume design.

Director and writer Steve Exeter intended to celebrate the original film, as well as present the uncanny parallels between Moira and her tragic alter ego, Victoria Page, the protagonist of The Red Shoes. The original movie tells the story of a young ballerina torn between her passion for art and romance, who ultimately chooses life over fame. In this celebration of a powerful woman’s complex psyche, Exeter creates a stylish and stimulating dreamlike short, exhibiting lush cinematography and stunning use of colour.

Practically every shot in this movie could be a painting, with outstanding attention to detail and artistic flair promised through the opening credits, which are a testament to the high quality thirteen minutes of film to follow. The internal struggle of Moira Shearer is at the centre of the piece, with a clash between her lifelong passion for ballet dancing and desire to make a big name for herself causing conflict. When she is approached by filmmakers Michael Powell (Mills) and Emeric Pressburger (Westwood), who are determined to have Moira play the lead in their upcoming film, she is forced to make a difficult decision which will ultimately change her life forever.

Exeter makes spectacular use of theatrical direction to represent Moira’s internal turmoil, as displayed by a spinning record player and the foreboding shadowy figures of both directors tormenting her. Flashing film cameras highlighting their silhouettes forces the dancer to face her fears, with remarkable uses of colour throughout these dreamlike, captivating sequences. Red lighting represents her anguish and confusion, with blue utilised for her rival dancer, Margot, who she metaphorically ‘kicks’ out of the way so she can finally shine centre stage in the spotlight. The yellow colour grading also communicates Moira’s admirable strength of spirit, whether it be whilst she gets ready for a show at her dressing table or steps out from behind a theatre curtain.

Shannon Davidson is extraordinary as the lead, slipping into the role with ease, not only through her physical likeness to Moira Shearer, but also through her immersive performance abilities in song, dance and acting. The film’s title is the Scottish Gaelic translation of the main original song sung by Davidson herself, ‘Song of the Swan’, an uplifting number which captures both Shannon and Moira’s strong spirit. The narrative invites viewers to become intimate with Moira’s internal voice and it ultimately becomes quite tragic by the end to see how she gained fame for something she did not have a passion for.

To conclude, Òran na h-Eala is a spellbinding examination of a young woman’s struggle to come to terms with her own desires and passions, brought to life through vivid cinematography, impeccable direction and an outstanding performance from its lead.


#EmilyDavison

Òran na h-Eala (2022) trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q1zR757V0Q

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