Monday, 17 March 2014

Polina by Bastien Vives Review

Polina joins an elite ballet school as a young girl taught by the demanding Professor Bojinsky. She becomes an accomplished dancer but, when she goes travelling, she discovers that there are many other forms of dance. She goes on to become a famous international dancer.
This is a really insubstantial story to make a 200 page book out of! A dancer’s life could be interesting (I suppose?) but not like this. Watching Polina become a good ballerina, falling in love for the first time, discovering that – shock! – your first love is rarely your last, and then finding her place in an international dance troupe was beyond boring.
Bastien Vives’ artwork is ok but it looks exactly like he sat in a dance studio and sketched the dancers – most of the book looks like it was made up of sketchbook pages. And he can’t convey “amazing” dance very well either. We see the different stages of a dance but there’s no sense of the stages synching up in any meaningful way. We’re told the dances are moving and powerful but all I saw on the page was static non-sequiturs.
And then there’s Polina herself. Her “journey” discovering that there were other ways to dance – what?!? The banal revelation makes more sense when you realise she was a brain-dead drone with zero personality who just did whatever her teachers told her to do. There was nothing about her character or story that was remotely interesting or moving. “I want to dance a new way!” “Boo hoo, I can’t dance this way!” etc. etc. Give me a break!
When the book suddenly interrupts with a “3 Years Later” page and Polina’s suddenly an internationally feted dance superstar, I laughed because It’s all so contrived. We don’t see anything on the page or in the story to suggest how this could have happened, we’re simply told to believe that’s what’s happened. She meets some dance dudes in Berlin, smash cut to 3 years later and everything’s gone swimmingly! Well, show don’t tell, Bastien. In this book, despite the good balance between silent and dialogue driven panels, there’s a lot of telling.
I liked Bastien Vives’ last book, A Taste of Chlorine, but Polina was a completely unbelievable and badly plotted story with dull characters and overly stylised art.


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