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Netflix Recommendation: Afternoon of a Faun (2013)

April 1, 2015


Glory and tragedy are two aspects of life that can strike anyone at any moment. For the French born, New York resident, Tanaquil Le Clercq, it was the coagulation of both that made her life so remarkable and memorable. Afternoon of a Faun documents Tanaquil’s story from early beginnings to an inspiring end showcasing a life of wonder, brilliance, pliability, and tragedy. Director Nancy Buirski puts together the pieces of Tanaquil’s life in poetic form through rare footage and images for an inspiring tale of a woman I had never known, but now admire.

Tanny was an astounding ballerina whose career skyrocketed in the 1940s. When she was merely 15 years old, Tanny fell under the wing of famed choreographer George Balanchine, considered by many as one of the most prolific choreographers of the 20th century. With George as her mentor, Tanny’s natural talent and magnetism radiated, and by the age of 27 she was the premiere ballerina of her time during a period when the classic style of dance began seeing a wide resurgence across the world. Sadly, it didn’t take long for Tanny’s high climb to stardom and recognition to welt and fall from grace succumbing the effects of a life-changing illness that shaped her future’s path for the rest of her life.

Afternoon of the Faun employs personal interviews with those who knew Tanny best and rare, exhaustive video footage and pictures showcasing Tanny in her element allowing audiences to watch her phenomenal dancing in all of its sensual, perfected glory. Black and white footage of rehearsals and early performances invites us into the world of ballet highlighting the rigid form matched with fluid pose of some of the best dancers of the period alongside Tanny. Afternoon of the Faun feels as like watching a time capsule unfold before our eyes where Tanny’s words and movements are pristinely kept. This acts as a way to not only showcase her tribulations, but to encourage others to stay determined and hopeful through any setbacks and tragedies life may deliver.

Afternoon of the Faun is beautifully cryptic at times and overall incredibly impressive in its scope of Tanny’s life. It should also be highly regarded for its historical look into the world of ballet. Buirski delivers Tanny’s story through the backdrop of the wondrous elements of ballet. We are shown aspects of form, agility, poise, and great care in the movements and style entrenched in the form of dance. It allows viewers to see ballet in a new light for those who are only generally knowledgeable of it. Learning aspects of Tanny’s and George’s teaching and performances shows the true dedication and brilliance of those who work hard to train in ballet dancing. This along with Buirski’s decision to focus on the resilience of the human spirit in the face of hardship is why Afternoon of the Faun in a fantastic film.


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