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The Movies Influenced by ‘The Red Shoes’

We highlight eight movies that came on the heels of the Powell and Pressburger classic.
The Criterion Collection
By  · Published on April 4th, 2019

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums

As we learned from Wes Anderson‘s commentary track for The Royal Tenenbaums, his opening title shot was inspired by the opening title shot for The Red Shoes. It’s not the most blatant homage, but both do feature candles (Tenenbaums has two) and both movies’ openings make reference to a book as their source material (Tenenbaums‘ is fake). Some believe the address of the Tenenbaums’ home being the made up “111 Archer Avenue” is also a reference to Powell and Pressburger’s production company, The Archers.

While at Cannes promoting Moonlight Kingdom in 2012, Anderson addressed the influence of the filmmakers on all his work. As quoted by The Playlist via IndieWire:

“Some of the movies that have most inspired me especially in a visual way are the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger films … so much of that work is about making these visual … quite artificial films, and there’s something very exciting about what they’ve made that’s in front of the camera, and you know ‘The Red Shoes,’ in particular, is the subject matter too…

“I also would say Powell and Pressburger are a very good inspiration for music as well. ‘The Red Shoes’ is a movie where there’s a very long sequence where the music was written first and the movie was made to the music, I mean it was a dance so it makes sense.”

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006)


Yeah, I would be the one to figure out a documentary that’s been influenced by The Red Shoes. And not one that’s just about Cardiff or Scorsese or film history. In The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, the iconic philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek uses the Powell and Pressburger film as illustrative material for his discussion of “partial objects” (body parts without bodies) and marks the titular shoes as immortally driven “undead objects.”

Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan

Two movies about prima ballerinas whose stories end in tragedy, and they both have a color in their title — how could they not be linked?  Well, Black Swan writer/director Darren Aronofsky claims it’s all a coincidence. “I wasn’t really influenced by it,” he told Collider when asked about the link to The Red Shoes. “I really didn’t ever try to be influenced by it because it’s such a masterpiece. The dance sequences were so ahead of their time. I just kept it in the back of my head. It was a long time ago.”

He’s claimed elsewhere that he had been working on Black Swan before he even ever saw The Red Shoes. His reasoning for the easy comparison? “I saw that there were similarities in the story, but I think that’s because we both went back to ballet and pulled from ballet for the different characters and stuff, so we ended up in similar places,” he told Collider. That could be true, as the meta demises of their respective heroines are based on the characters’ deaths in their ballets, The Red Shoes and Swan Lake, respectively.

Still, someone in this collaborative art must have been influenced by the most famous and revered ballet movie of all time while working with Aronofky, right? Regardless, most people assume and ignorantly still say The Red Shoes was a major reference point for Black Swan, and that has at least inspired many fans of Aronofsky and his film to go back and watch the 1948 classic and maybe even become fans of Powell and Pressburger in general.

The Rad Shoes (2015)

Me And Earl Fake Movie Posters

I never said I was going to only include real movies, did I? The Rad Shoes is an amateur remake of The Red Shoes, or at least a film inspired by the 1948 classic, directed by Greg Gaines and Earl Jackson, fictional characters in the 2015 teen movie Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. We never see any footage from this one, unfortunately, but there is a poster (by Edward Bursch and Nathan O. Marsh, artists who have worked together on Wes Anderson projects, too). Gaines and Jackson also modeled their own production logo after that of Powell and Pressburger, aka The Archers. They also redid the duo’s Peeping Tom (as Pooping Tom) and there’s a reference to Tales of Hoffman in the comedy-drama.

The Shape of Water (2017)

Shape Of Water

Guillermo del Toro‘s Best Picture winner is partly a gender-flipped version of The Little Mermaid, another fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, but the romantic fantasy film involves a more direct connection to The Red Shoes. As I wrote when recommending the Powell and Pressburger classic for readers to watch after seeing The Shape of Water:

Among the influences on The Shape of Water are the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with this being one of his absolute favorites. Lush Technicolor extravaganza,” he called it in a tweet. “One of the most beautiful, poignant films I’ve seen. Perfection.” He added in a reply “This film has, over the years, become a bigger and bigger influence on the way I view filmmaking. And my stories.”

More than just being an influence on his latest, though, The Red Shoes is explicitly referenced in the design of Elisa’s apartment with its arched windows, as del Toro acknowledges in another tweet. Red is also the color assigned to Hawkins’ character in the movie’s color palette. Allusions to the Powell and Pressburger movie Black Narcissus can also be seen in the cinematography of The Shape of Water.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.