A new documentary about the acid attack on Sergei Filin shows that Black Swan has nothing on real-life ballet dramasby Neil Norman / December 28, 2015 / Leave a comment
It was like a scene from The Phantom of the Opera: a tale of high art, jealousy and violence. In January 2013, the artistic director of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet entered his home and had acid thrown in his face. Few people outside the rarefied world of ballet knew of Sergei Filin before the attack, but many more knew his name afterwards.
The Bolshoi is the most famous ballet company in the world. It is a Russian icon, and a cultural ambassador for a country whose reputation in the outside world has gone downhill since Vladimir Putin took charge, and especially since the conflict in Ukraine began two years ago. As Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev puts it in a new documentary about the Filin affair, Bolshoi Babylon, the ballet company is “Russia’s secret weapon” in selling his country to the world.
The fact that it was riven with murderous jealousies came as a shock to many—but only to those who are outside the hermetically sealed world of ballet. At the Bolshoi training is ferocious and the competition fierce: it makes Black Swan looks tame by comparison. Yet until the Filin attack nobody had been seriously hurt. Blinded by the acid, he has undergone many operations to save his sight. One eye has gone completely. The other is only just working.
A co-production between the BBC and HBO, Bolshoi Babylon follows several characters in the aftermath of the attack in order to understand this savage…