Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s psychological twister set in a New York professional ballet company, is a tale of good and evil. It’s not a film that I left saying I loved. It’s not the easiest film to watch. Nonetheless, the film is a powerful exploration into a world that I know very little about and one that I am so glad that I took the time to see. This isn’t supposed to be a feel good film, even though it is about a beautiful world (of ballet) and is certainly fascinating. It takes you skillfully behind the scenes of the profession and leaves you breathless.
I knew very little going into the movie, and I advise that for you, too, so I will not say much. You have to see it to find out what I mean when I say “breathless” – I mean it in every sense of the word. It is as dramatic an ending as you could every imagine.
Darren Aronofsky, the director of Black Swan, directed The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream, and others. I really need to have an Aronofsky all day film marathon over the holidays so that I can get better educated about his work. He’s a genius, and this movie puts him right up there with the best of directors. He goes back and forth between fact and fiction in this movie, and you never know what is real or not. His film making technique is also jarring but it’s obviously intentional and meant to throw the viewer off.
Black Swan is surely going to be nominated for many Academy Awards, Natalie Portman being the most clear cut case. Her transformation into a ballerina dancer is stunning. For this role, she lost a ton of weight, learned to dance professionally and acts her heart out. This has to be her shining moment, THE film that will define her already incredible talent. The film also features Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis in some of the best casting I have seen in a long time. Ryder, who plays an aging ballerina who is forced to retire and make way for Nina as her replacement, plays her role so effectively in the few brief moments she has on film. I don’t remember when I last saw her on screen, but I’m always happy to see her make a comeback.
Portman plays Nina, a ballet dancer who has spent her whole life following in the footsteps of her mother, who never made it as a dancer herself and piled the pressure on Nina to achieve what she did not. When she is cast as the lead in Swan Lake, she is forced to show her true dark side to go from the White to Black Swan. She wants to be perfect, but the pressure to be perfect is overwhelming. She resorts to fantasies, jealousy, self-mutilation, vomiting and mental torture. Needless to say, the film doesn’t end well. But I will stop here. Make an effort to see Black Swan – it is really a cinematic masterpiece, and one that you will not forget so easily. I know I won’t.
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