Joe Somebody

Narrated by Derek Jacobie.
Directed by Paul Cox.
Running Time: 95 mins
Rated: M
Nijinsky was considered the greatest ballet dancer of his generation. He was also a splendid choreographer who modernised classical ballet with freer forms and stronger characterisations.
In 1919 he fled St Petersburg for St Moritz mainly to get away from the destructive influence of his mentor Diaghilev. There, with his wife and daughter, he penned a number of diaries. They chronicle his descent into a complete mental collapse.

Australian Director Paul Cox brings to the screen a very unusual film. It is not a drama or a documentary; Cox calls it a "cinematic poem", with thousands of images portraying Nijinsky's diary entries which narrate the disassociation that is taking place in the dancer's mind.

There is a structure to all this, but only just. Jacobi's richly textured voice takes us through Nijinsky's thoughts on his work, his stardom, his wife, daughter and family, Diaghilev, the purpose of life and God. God looms large.

I may have been too tired for this demanding film, but I kept wondering, why should I have to sit through a famous ballet dancer's free-falling thoughts on all these topics?

I didn't find his insights particularly coherent or insightful, just another journal of a person's tragic descent toward mental disability.

The promotional line for this film quotes the diary as saying, "I'm a dancer. You will understand me when you see me dance'. Well, we don't see Nijinsky dance in this film and Paul Cox's work here has left me none the wiser about Nijinsky or the worthy subjects his diaries try to explore.


Richard Leonard SJ

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