The Red Shoes (1948)

Brief Intro

“The Red Shoes” (1948) is a British drama film directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It tells the story of a young ballerina, Victoria Page, who is torn between her dedication to ballet and her love for composer Julian Craster. The film is renowned for its vibrant Technicolor cinematography, groundbreaking ballet sequences, and its exploration of artistic obsession.

Literary Devices Used in The Red Shoes

1. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
Victoria putting on the red shoes for the first timeThe red shoes symbolize both artistic passion and destructive obsession.
Final dance sceneThe shoes’ relentless hold on Victoria represents her loss of control over her life and art.

2. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
Victoria’s first encounter with Boris LermontovHis intense gaze foreshadows the controlling and possessive relationship that will develop.
Early references to Hans Christian Andersen’s taleForeshadows Victoria’s tragic end, mirroring the story of the enchanted shoes.

3. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Lermontov’s insistence on the ballet’s importanceIt’s ironic that his dedication to art ultimately destroys the artist.
Victoria’s rise to fameThe acclaim and success she achieves come at the cost of her personal happiness.

4. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
Ballet of “The Red Shoes” within the filmThe ballet serves as a metaphor for Victoria’s own life and struggles.
Lermontov’s manipulationLermontov’s control over Victoria is a metaphor for the overpowering nature of artistic ambition.

5. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
Victoria’s calm moments before performancesJuxtaposed with the intense, dramatic scenes on stage to highlight her dual existence.
Lermontov’s cold demeanor vs. Julian’s warmthThis contrast emphasizes the conflict between personal love and professional dedication.

6. Motif

Movie SceneDevice Example
Repeated shots of Victoria’s shoesReinforces the central motif of the red shoes and their significance.
Recurring musical themesThe leitmotifs associated with characters and emotions underscore the film’s dramatic moments.

7. Allegory

Movie SceneDevice Example
Entire ballet of “The Red Shoes”Functions as an allegory for the dangers of succumbing to artistic obsession.
Lermontov’s authoritarian controlAllegorical representation of the oppressive nature of artistic ambition and control.

8. Allusion

Movie SceneDevice Example
References to Andersen’s fairy taleAllusion to the story enhances the film’s narrative depth and forebodes the tragic outcome.
Visuals reminiscent of famous balletsAllusions to classic ballet productions enrich the film’s cultural texture.

9. Imagery

Movie SceneDevice Example
Vivid Technicolor sequencesThe use of color imagery heightens the emotional impact and dreamlike quality of the film.
Detailed ballet sequencesRich visual imagery in dance scenes emphasizes the beauty and intensity of ballet.

10. Personification

Movie SceneDevice Example
The red shoes “dancing” by themselvesPersonifies the shoes as having a life and will of their own, controlling Victoria.
Lermontov’s view on artHe treats art as a living entity that demands absolute devotion.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Victoria Page

SymbolismVictoria’s red shoes symbolize her passionate, yet destructive, pursuit of artistic perfection.
ForeshadowingEarly scenes hint at her eventual tragic downfall, paralleling the story of Andersen’s fairy tale.

Boris Lermontov

MetaphorLermontov’s control over Victoria is a metaphor for the consuming nature of artistic ambition.
JuxtapositionHis cold demeanor is juxtaposed with Julian’s warmth, highlighting his single-minded dedication to art over personal relationships.

Julian Craster

IronyJulian’s love for Victoria, which should bring happiness, instead becomes a source of conflict and tragedy.
MotifRecurring musical themes associated with Julian emphasize his role as both a creator and lover in the story.

Character Dynamics

IronyThe relationships between Victoria, Lermontov, and Julian are fraught with irony; Lermontov’s dedication to Victoria’s success ultimately leads to her destruction, and Julian’s love for her cannot save her from her fate.
JuxtapositionThe contrasting personalities and motivations of Lermontov and Julian create a dynamic tension, driving the narrative forward and highlighting the central themes of love, ambition, and sacrifice.

Thematic Analysis

Ambition and Obsession

SymbolismThe red shoes symbolize the all-consuming nature of artistic ambition.
AllegoryThe story of the red shoes serves as an allegory for the dangers of letting ambition override personal well-being.


MetaphorVictoria’s sacrifice of her personal life for ballet is a metaphor for the cost of artistic pursuit.
JuxtapositionThe juxtaposition of Victoria’s professional success with her personal tragedy underscores the theme of sacrifice.

Control and Manipulation

PersonificationLermontov’s view of art as a living entity that demands control and devotion personifies the theme of manipulation.
IronyLermontov’s control over Victoria, intended to bring out her best, ironically leads to her downfall.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismUse of TechnicolorThe vibrant red of the shoes is emphasized through Technicolor, making them a focal point in the visual narrative.
ForeshadowingMusical leitmotifsRecurring musical themes foreshadow key events and emotional shifts in the story.
MetaphorChoreographyThe ballet sequences serve as metaphors for the characters’ inner lives and conflicts.
ImageryCinematographyThe film’s visual style, with its rich color and dramatic lighting, enhances the imagery and emotional impact.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. Victoria’s First Dance in the Red Shoes
    • Watch Scene
    • Breakdown: This scene showcases the symbolic significance of the red shoes, capturing Victoria’s initial enchantment and the beginning of her obsessive journey. The vivid color and intense choreography highlight the blend of visual and narrative storytelling.
  2. Final Ballet Performance
    • Watch Scene
    • Breakdown: The final performance is a culmination of the film’s themes of ambition, sacrifice, and control. The intense choreography and dramatic lighting emphasize Victoria’s inner turmoil and foreshadow her tragic end.


Interactive Multiple Choice Quiz

  1. What do the red shoes symbolize in “The Red Shoes”?
    • A) Love
    • B) Ambition and Obsession
    • C) Freedom
    • D) Wealth
  2. Who is the director of “The Red Shoes”?
    • A) Alfred Hitchcock
    • B) Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
    • C) Stanley Kubrick
    • D) Orson Welles
  3. Which literary device is primarily used to foreshadow Victoria’s fate?
  4. What does Lermontov symbolize in the film?
    • A) Romantic Love
    • B) Artistic Control
    • C) Parental Support
    • D) Friendship
  5. Which technique is used to emphasize the importance of the red shoes?
    • A) Black and white cinematography
    • B) Technicolor
    • C) Sepia tone
    • D) Handheld camera


  1. B
  2. B
  3. B
  4. B
  5. B