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Diamond, D. (2016). The Red Shoes: A Fairy Tale within a Ballet within a Film. Psychoanal. Psychol., 33S(Supplement):S104-S119.

(2016). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 33S(Supplement):S104-S119

The Red Shoes: A Fairy Tale within a Ballet within a Film

Diana Diamond, Ph.D.

The Red Shoes, by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, has achieved iconic status as the ultimate ballet film and as a work about creativity and desire. Released in 1948 in postwar England when women were returning from factory to home, the film's color and fantastic visuals reflect a quest for beauty after the war's devastation. The Red Shoes, in which an aspiring ballerina is literally danced to death by her ballet slippers, is about the ways a compulsion to create may lead to an enhancement but also a deadly abyss within the self, speaking to the borders between creativity, Eros and death. The film's core narrative is Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Red Shoes, which epitomizes universal anxieties, desires, conflicts, and fantasies, both oedipal and preoedipal. This article discusses the ballet sequence as a fairy tale within a film, comparable to a dream within a dream. Such nested works of art illuminate disavowed painful events or conflicts (e.g., the ballerina's conflict between her desire to dance and her passion for her composer-lover), enlacing them in various narrative structures that both reveal and conceal. The heroine is alternatively positioned as a puppet of male collaboration, in which homoeroticism and misogyny intersect, and as a prima ballerina, whose red shoes empower her, turning the men in her life into a projection of her own desires and fears. As such the film is thought to prefigure the social contradictions that led to the feminine mystique of the 1950s and contemporary queer theory.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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