Review: Piece of My Heart

– Friendship is tainted by jealousy – and too much alcohol – in Dana Nechushtan’s clumsy melodrama starring a dancer

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Whatever your take on Darren Aronofsky, the man surely made his point with 2010’s Black Swan, an entertaining, over-the-top, oft-parodied tale of two women competing for the same role and losing their marbles. That clash of the tutus already had it all, and yet similar stories keep on coming. In Dana Nechushtan‘s Piece of My Heart [+leggi anche:
scheda film
— which premiered in Competition at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival — however, the star ballerina is high on coke. This is the 1970s baby!

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Nechushtan’s film doesn’t go quite as crazy as that Natalie Portman stars, probably because it was inspired by the true story of a talent lost to drugs, alcohol and too much pressure. But that hellraiser Dutch dancer died in her 30s – the film, although overlong, focuses on very young women. If the rise already feels fast here, the fall is so hurried it’s honestly hard to care.

Dana Nechushtan can be a heavy-handed director: once her gorgeous protagonist (Roos Englebert) starts moving to a Janis Joplin’s song, herself a famous “27 Club” member, her destiny is easy to predict. The most interesting part comes when things finally get more complicated, all because of jealousy. Her friend, Irma (Elaine Meijerink), wants what Olga already has – talent and charisma. “She is the star, she has the magic,” she keeps hearing from others, and she doesn’t take it too well. The film recalls Amadeus in that regard, as one person suddenly realizes that all the hard work in the world is not enough when faced with natural talent.

And yet, Englebert’s Olga isn’t exactly Tom Hulce’s primitive genius. It’s not like she doesn’t “deserve” the success, she has worked for it too. It just… comes easier to her. When Irma erupts: “Can we not talk about Olga for once?” it can mean so many things. Irma, too, wants the attention; she doesn’t want to be just the support system. When things take a darker turn, she should feel bad for her friend. But she might be relishing the tragedy instead.

Meijerink and Englebert are fine here, though not given enough time to show the dramatic changes in their characters’ lives. Olga in particular remains an enigma, the source of her trauma and self-destructive behaviors never really explained. Maybe she is just yearning for freedom, after being dominated by overbearing yet loving parents. Maybe there is more to it — we will never know.

It’s a storyline that feels both too familiar and too old-fashioned, as if someone was trying to communicate something to the kids yet struggling to find the language they would understand. There are mentions of suicide, eating disorders and long dance sequences, but the story has the depth of a music video: it’s flashy enough and does what it’s supposed to do, but it is also sentimental and a bit silly. So was Black Swan. But there was some twisted intensity there, which this film is sorely lacking.

Piece of my Heart was produced by Topkapi Films. World sales are handled by Beta Cinema.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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