Ballet has inspired some of cinema’s most sumptuous dramas about the confluence of art, ambition and discipline. With Darling, Danish director Birgitte Stærmose has delivered a stylish, suspenseful and arresting contribution to this lineage.
World-renowned prima ballerina Darling (Danica Curcic) is returning to Copenhagen to dance the lead in the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of ‘Giselle.’ Thanks to her relationship with the company’s director (Ulrich Thomsen, The Commune), Darling has secured her husband Frans (Gustaf Skarsgård, Vikings) the plum job of choreographer. But Darling is hiding a hip condition, and after collapsing in agony during rehearsals, her role falls to understudy Polly (Astrid Grarup Elbo, a real dancer at the Royal Ballet), a fragile novice who lacks Darling’s high-voltage diva charisma. Unable to let go, Darling decides to train Polly to be the Giselle she can never be, but Darling’s devastation at suddenly becoming second fiddle is starting to wreak havoc on the production, and on her marriage.
Working from Kim Fupz Aakeson’s (who also writes this year’s Becoming Astrid) fine script, Stærmose stages both punishing physical exertion and psychological distress with equal panache, keeping us on point right up to the final curtain call.