banner image

:: The Dancer Upstairs

Based on Nicolas Shakespeare’s adaptation of his novel of the same name, The Dancer Upstairs marks John Malkovich’s feature film directorial debut. Filmed in Spain, Ecuador and Portugal, The Dancer Upstairs features a truly international cast of actors from Italy, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and England.

Shakespeare’s book was based on the 1980s manhunt for the leader of Peru’s notorious guerilla organization known as ‘Sendero Luminoso’ or The Shining Path. In the film, we see an unnamed South American country nearing collapse courtesy of a highly organised terrorist organization. An idealistic policeman Augustin Rejas (Javier Bardem) faces the greatest challenge of his career to try and catch the mysterious guerilla leader Ezequiel who considers himself to be the “Fourth Flame of Communism”. The brains behind the bloody revolution that threatens to bring the government and entire country down, Ezequiel proves to be frustratingly elusive prey for his would be captor. The military’s response to the brutal tactics of Ezequiel’s followers is equally ferocious, creating an atmosphere of chaos and panic. In the midst of the chaos, Rejas finds respite in Yolanda (Laura Morante), his daughter’s ballet teacher. He discovers that there is more to Yolanda than meets the eye and both ultimately find themselves forced to choose between love, country and self.

The Dancer Upstairs is a political thriller, containing all the disturbing hallmarks of a society on the brink of something rotten. Dead dogs hang from street lamps, street kids carry revolutionary placards and grenades to further the revolutionary cause. A group of young school girls dance and skip around a driveway, only to pull machine guns and rifles from their school bags to mow down a car load of important government officials. For those who have found Malkovich to be a sometimes creepy, mysterious and unsettling presence on screen, they will find this film an appropriate directorial extension of his perceived persona.