Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cinema--Black Swan

or: Crazy ballet.

One word to sum it up: Spooky.

I would say that Black Swan is a movie which you could either absolutely love of absolutely hate. It has the potential to be something artsy and beautiful, or it has the potential to be something which people would dismiss is 'oversexualized torture porn'. I tend to agree with the former. It must be a case of those who are into this sort of thing will love it, and I guess it helps if you are familiar with Darren Aronofsky's work. However, those who only want to see dancing...this film will go way over the top of their head.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side - a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.

Here's the truth about Black Swan: I cannot recommend it to anybody. It's one of those movies which just can't be loved by anyone. It's fantastic, but most people might just go "ugh, she's crazy" and completely switch off the movie. That lesbian sex scene will probably also cause some eye rolls. However, to the right viewer, like me, Black Swan is a beautiful piece of art which explores the fine line between reality and insanity. We first meet Nina when she is an innocent young woman living with her overbearing mother. There is something so scary already about Nina: she's like a ten year old stuck in a 20-something year olds body. One of the problems is the fact that the movie spends a long time dwelling on this fact, and even though she gradually becomes more defiant, when she really becomes crazy comes far too quickly. It is wildly interesting to watch her rise and decline though, and this movie could really be set against any theatrical backdrop, as it's one of those stories which is ever so topical to that kind of thing.

When Darren Aronofsky is subtle, he does a brilliant job. With the help of some amazing cinematography from long time working partner Matthew Libatique, Aronofsky shoots ballet like he shot wrestling in The Wrestler, and it is absolutely beautiful. The ballet sequences in this movie are stand outs, but I would not go and see this film just for them. Rather, I would go see it for it's brilliant use of conflicting genres. In most ways, it is the epitome of a psychological thriller, but it also a very scary physical horror. While it zeroes on the paranoia that comes with taking a role, it also spares no details on the pain that ballerinas go through, to the point that it is almost unwatchable. Another fantastic detail of Black Swan is the use of the ever present mirrors. Never have I feared an inanimate object so much after seeing a film. They create this eerie feeling, which goes perfectly with the brilliant Tchaikovsky infused score by Clint Mansell. And there you have it: all the trimmings to go with an arty flick that any arty film lover will adore.

It goes without saying, Natalie Portman is perfect in this movie. The way she adapts to both sides of her character is amazing, even to the point that it is painful to watch what she is doing. Just give her that Oscar already. While the Oscars forgot the supporting players, it is hard to ignore them. Mila Kunis is simply amazing as Lily, the free spirit who is effortlessly good at what she does. Why ignore her, Academy, why? Barbara Hershey is the scariest mamma I've seen since Margaret White in Carrie, but you can see how much she cares for her gradually insane daughter. Vincent Cassel, possibly the most underrated out of the lot, uses his macho persona to convey the sensual, almost villain like presence on screen. Black Swan is an effortlessly well acted film, rounded off by a thrilling finale which messed with my brain in the most amazing way.

THE VERDICT: Black Swan is a perfectly made, well acted piece of film which is easily classified as 'art'. Aronofsky has never been better.



  1. Wonderful review! I truly enjoyed reading your ramblings on it. Indeed, it's not a film which you can recommend to anyone, but the majority of people who I advised to see it liked it.

  2. Thank you! It hasn't been getting great reviews over here, which is a shame, because it is a wonderful movie!

  3. You've pretty much said what I wanna comment about this movie~! Thanks!! ^^


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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