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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0008
Run Time
0h 7m 55s
(The) Bells is a ballet in 5 episodes, choreographed by Ruth Page and based on the poem of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe. It was premiered on April 26, 1946 at the Chicago University Composers Series; it was originally performed by Page, J. Andrews, and R. Josias. It was then produced by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (in August at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Massachusetts and September 6 at the City Center, New York). Later program descriptions suggest the ballet is about a married man who seeks refuge from his broken marriage with a group of homosexuals. The collapse of the chapel set at the end is meant to be a symbolic representation of the disintegrating marriage and society as a whole. This film version seems to depict roughly the final third of the ballet, in which the husband and wife figures attempts to fight off various evil forces but ultimately fail and the chapel set topples down.
The film opens onto an empty stage and fully erected chapel set against the back curtain; then two men enter, fighting from stage left. One, in a blue unitard, is apparently the husband character; the other is apparently some sort of evil man in a black unitard with white stripes and mohawk-like headdress. Eventually, the evil man seems to prevail and the husband begins to dance in unison with his steps. Then, the bride enters and, after embracing her husband, begins a solo as the two men exit. Then she exits as the evil leader bursts out from the back curtain and performs his own brief solo. He is soon joined by a group of similarly costumed minions and the husband, now in additional black costuming. Soon a group of women in two-toned leotards and pink scarves also enter the stage and the groups pose in separate clusters. Then the bride reenters in a large black veil/headdress and chaos ensues onstage. Sometimes the male evil minions and the female group dance together in couples; other times they dance separately. The evil leader's objective is clearly to separate the married couple and bring the husband with him. This is eventually successful; ultimately, the bride, joined by a procession of similarly veiled dancers in black tights and white leotards, gives in and bows her head to the evil leader. All onstage drop to the ground save for him; he strikes a triumphant final pose as the chapel crumbles to the ground and the curtains close. The final few seconds of the film depict what appears to be the conductor warming up his orchestra before the show began.
00:05-00:58 - Film opens with a view of an empty stage with a minimalist chapel set piece against the back curtain, before which a man in a bluish unitard (apparently the husband character) enters from stage left, fighting another male figure in a black unitard with white stripes and a large, feathery, mohawk-like headdress. The 'evil' figure in black drags the other man on the floor and seems to indoctrinate him into mimicking his steps. 00:59-01:08 - As the men continue their dance in unison, the bride enters from stage right, costumed in a pink unitard and short white dress. At this moment, her husband collapses on the other man's back and reaches out to her. After she embraces him, the evil man drags him off stage left. 01:08-01:55 - The wife performs a petite allegro solo and exits stage left 01:59-02:35 - The evil man bursts forth from the back curtain and begins an aggressive solo of his own 02:36-03:14 - A group of similarly costumed minions joins the 'evil' leader from stage left, as the husband (with additional streaming black costuming) arrives from stage right. All dance together as an ensemble; for a portion, the husband does a handstand. 03:15-03:22 - The 'evil' group all huddles together on stage left as a group of women enter from stage right in two-tone unitards and with pinks streamer-like accessories. They pose in a cluster at upstage center. 03:23-03:41 - The bride enters from stage right in a large black headdress/veil, and both groups surround her somewhat chaotically. On the ground, the husband reaches toward her before dancing with the evil leader until she emerges from the center of the cluster and runs toward him 03:42-04:36 - The main couple embraces in the upstage left corner as the two groups dance together in couples at center and the evil leader does a small solo in front of and around the bride & groom, trying to separate them. 04:37-04:55 - The evil leader finally succeeds in breaking up the couple, perched between them as they try to reach around him. 04:55-05:22 - The evil leader and the husband leave the wife in the upstage corner and move to downstage center, where they execute large jumps together and join the other minions in black; the group of women runs around the wife and form a cluster. 05:23-06:15 - The husband and evil leader break away from the group and circle the women; the female cluster breaks apart and rejoins the minions in the center, leaving the wife alone and the leader and husband dancing together, eventually including the wife. (All dance rather sexually) 06:16-06:45 - The husband and leader once again break off and dance alone, leaving two minions to lift the bride and carry her across the stage while the rest mill around; the bride then moves to far stage right (she leaves the camera frame, perhaps exiting, perhaps posing in the corner) while the husband and leader move to the center and the rest rotate around them in a windmill-like pattern 06:46-07:03 - As the bride reenters the frame from stage right, the group of women break off into a cluster toward stage left and leave the men in a cluster at stage right; all freeze as the bride circles them to approach her husband. Then the women all come circle around the bride and men before joining them for more couple-dancing. 07:04-07:34 - Female dancers in black tights, white leotards, and large black veils rise from along the back curtain (where they had been crouching/unnoticeable as people) and slowly circle the group, following the bride through the center and kneeling with the rest (except for the evil leader and the bride) as the chapel begins lowering behind them 07:35-07:52 - The bride bows her head and the kneeling veiled followers bob theirs up and down as the chapel crumbles and the leader rejoices just off-center, finishing in a yoga-like pose in which he holds one leg up to the side while the curtains close 07:53 - Cut to the orchestra's conductor standing in front of the chapel set before it rises (perhaps before the ballet began), apparently directing the orchestra 07:55 - End
Additional Credit
Milhaud, Darius (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)