Danica Curcic eats up the screen as the titular Darling, a prima ballerina totally bereft when her dancing career is suddenly cut short by the devastating diagnosis of irreparable hip damage.
Poised on the edge of establishing herself as half of the Royal Danish Ballet’s new dream team in a production of Giselle, alongside her husband as the choreographer, Darling instead opts to train her replacement, Polly (Elbo, a real-life ballerina at the Royal Danish Ballet). Playing with the dancer like a rag doll, Darling’s motives are murky – is she supporting her husband by pushing Polly to brilliance, or attempting to sabotage his show by breaking her?
Darling examines the physical exertion of ballet – you see the sweat, hear the breath, wince as dancers’ land. Equally, it explores the seedy underbelly of digging deep for that perfect performance through emotional and sexual manipulation, bullying and drug abuse.
Gustaf Skarsgård (yes, another one of those!) supplies excellent support as her husband Frans, who has, unspoken, always played second fiddle to his wife. The two of them have an intense chemistry on screen that becomes steadily more fraught. He perfectly displays the mixture of support and frustration he feels towards Darling and her increasingly erratic behaviour. The messiness and volatility of mixed personal and professional relationships is evident – are Darling and Frans only a fully-functioning team when their lives can be consumed by ballet? The film also explores the all-encompassing nature of ballet productions – Darling is empty without it.
It’s a shame for Darling that Black Swan came first, announcing the ripe potential of the ballet world as backdrop to an intriguing drama. With mini series like Flesh and Bone too, ballet’s all the rage. This can’t help but dent the impact of Darling as something fresh and unusual.
CAST: Danica Curcic, Gustaf Skarsgård, Ulrich Thomsen, Astrid Grarup Elbo
DIRECTOR: Birgitte Stærmose
WRITER: Kim Fupz Aakeson
SYNOPSIS: International superstar ballerina ‘Darling’ (Danica Curcic) and her husband Frans (Gustaf Skarsgård) return to the Royal Danish Ballet company in Copenhagen where Darling is to dance the lead in Giselle, choreographed by Frans.