Stars: Michaela DePrince, Daniel Camargo, Vito Mazzeo, Darcey Bussell, Irek Mukhamedov
This audacious attempt to update Léo Delibes’s Nineteenth Century comic fairy-tale ballet to a sci-fi, social media-satirising fable is, alas, a kitsch misfire.
A doll maker in the original, Dr Coppelia (Italian dancer Mazzeo) is a now an evil Rotwang-style scientist who sets up his high-tech, people-dwarfing institute in the middle of a quaint village, offering what seem to be virtual cosmetic makeovers. In reality, he is putting his subjects into a trance and stealing their essence to implant in the blonde android he is building.
Appealing Sierra Leonean dancer Michaela DePrince is Swan, a young woman living with her single mum while working at a juice bar, who is the first to realise that something is amiss with Coppelia’s operation, after the mayor (Bussell) and then Swan’s sweetheart Franz (Camargo) succumb to the sinister martinet’s spell. Rounding up her pals, Swan breaks in to Coppelia’s complex in an attempt to free the villagers.
Filmed entirely utilising green screen, the bright pastel colours of the village and the clinical white interiors of Coppelia’s lab bring to mind Jacques Demy’s visual confections colliding with ‘Metropolis’.
There is a naïve charm in sequences with the sprightly dancers skipping through these idealised settings, but the reductive characterisation and silent movie style performances - moustache-twirling for the baddie, beaming radiantly or frowning concernedly for the heroine – fail to drum up much drama over a ninety-minute running time.
Budget limitations are evidenced in the scenes in Coppelia’s lair with the makers choosing to deploy cheap-looking CGI animation for the Doctor’s army of bob-haired slave robots, which seems a curiously self-defeating move with professional dancers on hand.
Still, the film may appeal to younger ballet enthusiasts and hungover dance teachers who may want to bung on a video for an easy lesson.
Coppelia is released 1st April
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