Reviews – Black Swan

Black Swan flies eerily graceful in this fantastic, psychotic thriller.

It was dark; it was twisted; it was creepy; it was at most times disturbing. Nontheless, it was a great.

Psychologically visceral, Aronofsky’s Black Swan was a true descent into madness from the beginning to the very end. Artfully crafted, with great acting, an ominous score, and visuals that will often make you cringe, this work is indeed a masterpiece that only compliments Aronofsky’s already impressive resume.

Black Swan tells the story of Nina (played by Natalie Portman), a ballerina in a hyper competitive–if passive-aggressive–world of dancing. With ballet director Thomas (played by Vincent Cassel) retelling the story of Swan Lake, and the semi-forced retirement of the previous (and now older) prima ballerina, Nina and the others await their chance for the spotlight in the most coveted role as the Swan Queen–a role split into parts–White Swan, and Black Swan.

Black Swan

When Nina finally lands the role–though not with Thomas’s full confidence and support–she has to battle with the notion that despite her talent, she is truer to the pure White Swan than the aggressive, seductress Black Swan. Nina is a fantastic dancer, but frigid; precise, but unfeeling; dedicated, but not passionate. It is only with the arrival of a new, effortlessly graceful ballerina, Lily (played by Mila Kunis), that Nina begins to understand the dark side that her role demands.

Portman and Cassel as Nina and Thomas, respectively

Portman does a fantastic job portraying Nina, a sheltered 20ish year old girl whose overbearing mother was previously a dancer as well. Very early on we see Nina has problems–as evidenced with the occasional self-inflicted scratches we find on Nina’s back (right where wings would be, no less) and her mother’s reactions to them. And occasionally (and much more frequently as the movie continues) Nina has disturbing visions–visions that will make you squirm in your seat and grind your teeth, visions that become hard to distinguish from reality. Add to the equation the fun-loving, mysterious Lily, whose equally intoxicating and possibly dangerous qualities begin to unleash the darker side of Nina as she tries to become worthy of the Black Swan role.

Portman and Kunis as Nina and Lily, respectively

The movie ends with a particularly spellbinding sequence that is part magnificent dance and part mindboggling spiral into darkness. Everything that Aronofsky builds up to comes to a satisfying crescendo by the credits.

Don’t get me wrong–this blend of ingredients may not whet the appetite of every movie-goer. The ballet dancers’ world may not be a setting everyone is dying to see, and the pacing slows considerably in certain segments of the movie. But, like the Wrestler, he makes you care about the characters, and the story is a compelling one, albeit a little more insane than the Wrestler.

Rating: 4/5

2 Responses to “Reviews – Black Swan”
  1. Edward Cambro says:

    I’ve been wanting to see this movie, and now I want to see it more. Aronofsky is really brilliant with these from-the-bell, strike at the heart and mind type of movies. I heard he even did a script for Batman: Year One that was rejected for being too violent. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I wounldn’t be surprised.

    They’re saying Portman might get the Oscar for this. Do you think she will?

    • I think she will. The role itself was great for her because we know her (usually) as playing the nice, pure-hearted, kind, sweet, naive or innocent characters. Thomas, the ballet director, constantly chides her for this, telling her she’s great and for any other thing she’d be his first choice, but this role is just not her. He spends time and time again trying to bring it out of her, in some very… provocative ways… and she still can’t get her head around it. It’s the one thing a person like her can’t practice–you can train to become a type of person, and that is what Thomas is asking her to do–to unleash dual personas, a darker side, her Black Swan.

      I read that Aronofsky played with the idea of doppelgangers, and Nina shows hints of these throughout the ENTIRE movie, and it’s amazing to see how it comes together at the end. I actually got a bit annoyed that she was having trouble to change, but it was real–even I can relate to trying to be something I’m not and being frustrated that I can’t get around it. We feel this for jobs, for relationships, for personal desires, and so it becomes a palpable connection the audience shares with Nina.

      And in a way, it’s almost like Portman gets to send out a message–“I’m more than just the nice girl”.

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