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By Jake Skudder.
‘Rise of a Star’ is the directorial debut from James Bort, this short is based around aspiring ballerina Emma Gauthier (played by Dorothee Gilbert) and her “secret capable of undermining the achievement of her lifelong dream”. Now, I am no ballet expert and I am unable to interpret at this film in any sort of dance/technical way, however the themes are so well portrayed through Bort’s direction that they’re easy to digest.
Dorothee Gilbert’s portrayal of the confliction and secrecy Emma faces throughout the film are as elegant as they are subtle. Emma carries a weight of expectation from her ‘ballet master’ Youri (Pierre Deladonchamps) who demands “perfection” from his dancers, in particular Emma who he demands is “better than perfect” in the film’s climax. The secrecy that Emma is carrying is that of her 3 month pregnancy, which gives the film a conflicting tone between career and the idea of impending parenthood, a theme so common in the real world yet difficult to portray in a meaningful way. Director Bort’s utilisation of space and shadow to hide Emma’s stomach are impactful from the opening scene, a table on a darkened stage covering Emma from the waist down as her facial expression shows that she is not fully in the moment. The most delicate moment of the film follows this when Emma is alone in her dressing room, she caresses her stomach subtly bringing her ‘condition’ to the viewer’s attention.
Bort’s use of space to mirror Emma’s attempts of secrecy are brought to the forefront during a rehearsal scene. The camera focuses solely on the protagonist’s upper body and face until she moves back to a ‘safe’ space further back in the room where her physical appearance may not be so readily apparent, although of course at such an early stage of pregnancy her attempts to hide what is happening to her body only cast more light on the situation. This scene also introduces Mlle Jean, the owner of the ballet production and the antithesis to Youri. Her’s is the most powerful influence of the film as she realises Emma’s plight and explains that she still intends to allow her to perform. The core message of the piece dispels the idea that you must choose between the path of motherhood or a successful career, the strength of the final shot showing Emma with her arms by the side proudly displaying her full frame leaves a powerful final thought with the viewer, subverting the idea that career “perfection” cannot be attained alongside motherhood.
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