Director: Taylor Hackford | 131 minutes | drama, music | Actors: Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Jerzy Skolimowski, Helen Mirren, Geraldine Page, Isabella Rossellini, John Glover, Stefan Gryff, William Hootkins, Shane Rimmer, Florence Faure, David Savile, Ian Liston, Benny Young, Hilary Drake, Megumi Shimanuki, Daniel Benzali
‘White Nights’ is a good example of art imitates life: protagonist Mikhail Baryshnikov, the famous ballet dancer, often mentioned in the same breath with Rudolf Nureyev and Vaslav Nijinksy, plays in this drama a ballet dancer who once left his native Russia for his salvation. to search in the United States. Baryshnikov himself applied for political asylum in Toronto in 1974 while on tour with the Mariinsky Ballet there. Okay, the similarities end there, but this science and Baryshnikov’s performance certainly give “White Nights” the desired authenticity.
Nikolai “Kolya” Rodchekno (Baryshnikov) is a celebrated ballet dancer who, after the unparalleled performance in the opening scene, is on a plane with his manager on his way to Japan. Because there are problems with the plane, the crew sees no other option but to crash land in Siberia. As soon as Kolya realizes that, he panics and tries to cover up his identity by destroying his passport. In vain. He is seriously injured in his nervous emergency intervention and when he comes to, he is in the hands of the state he so hates. Colonel Chaiko (Jerzy Skolimowski) immediately realizes how the flag stands and offers Kolya a way out. Rather than imprison him, they would like to keep Kolya. But then he has to admit that on closer inspection, Russia is not such a bad country to be in.
To keep Kolya in Russia at all costs, Chaiko has a sinister plan in mind. He has another favor owed by American-fled tap dancer Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines) and his Russian-born wife Darya (Isabella Rossellini, on the title role it is insinuated that this is her first role, but that’s not quite right). Greenwood has just fled the US because of the fact that he was discriminated against there. Kolya and Raymond are absolute opposites. Still, Chaiko seems like a good idea to let them live together in Kolya’s former apartment in St. Petersburg. Kolya can perform again in his familiar Kirov theater and it will be as if he never left.
Despite all good intentions, Kolya has very different plans. And that does not change the presence of Kolya’s former lover Galina Ivanova (Helen Mirren), who now holds a high position in the Kirov Theater and who Kolya left behind when he fled the USSR. Initially, Raymond and Kolya clash, but as time goes on, and with the help of music and dance, the two talented performers grow closer. Because the KGB keeps a close eye on the apartment and has also placed wiretapping equipment, the three must be inventive to prepare their escape – because it is no surprise that it will come. For example, Kolya pretends that he is in love with Darya and that this causes continuous friction between Raymond and him.
“White Nights” – the title refers to the white nights in St. Petersburg between June 11 and July 2 – is mainly due to the energetic dance scenes, which are superbly portrayed. Hines and Baryshnikov are a sight to behold. You wish there were more dance scenes in it, but that will sell less well for commercial reasons. The simple story surrounding the escape attempt never reaches the level of those beautiful fragments, but is nevertheless entertaining and sometimes even a bit exciting. The film has a number of strong supporting roles. Helen Mirren, Isabella Rossellini and Jerzy Skolimowski are all on track. “White Nights” won an Oscar for the song “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie, but you will also know “Separate Lives” by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin. Many movies have less to recommend than that.