September 1, 2017
Discover how the filmmakers transformed the pages of the graphic novel with movement to explore the journey of a dancer’s life.
Like the spare, elegant graphic novel by Bastien Vivès on which it is based, Polina, the new film from Valérie Müller and Angelin Preljocaj, has an arresting immediacy about it from the start. The film tells the story of a girl (played by Anastasia Shevtsova, herself a dancer with the Russian Mariinsky Theater) who, after studying with a rather repressive ballet teacher as a child, breaks away to study under different masters—most notably Liria, a modern dance choreographer based in Aix-en-Provence, played here with understated force by Juliette Binoche.
As it turns out, Polina’s most important master is herself, as the film shows her gradual trajectory from a confident student into a person who guides other dancers. The route she take to get to that point is not necessarily smooth, and Polina finds herself in numerous locales and circumstances before her “arrival”; at times, the film reads like a distant descendant of Agnes Varda’s Vagabond.