Black Swan (2010)


Aronofsky does it again.
Aronofsky does it again.

Genre: Drama Thriller

Starring: Natalie Portman (V for VendettaStar Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones), Mila Kunis (“That '70s Show”Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

Directed By: Darren Aronofsky (The WrestlerRequiem for a Dream)

Overview: Swan Lake is the story of how a pure white swan is corrupted by a dark black swan. When ballet dancer Nina is cast in her dream role of Swan Lake’s Queen, she finds herself becoming corrupted by her need to be the perfect dancer.

Feel free to click here to skip the spoiler bit at the beginning.

This paragraph is for those who’ve seen the film, or who don’t mind every hook, line and twister being ruined before they see it (you people are weird)...
Click here to skip the spoiler bit.

Though full of dance, Black Swan’s final act does not focus on the dancing, on letting the audience determine if the show is as perfect as Nina claims. Perhaps intended to keep the show - the external - out of the equation of Nina’s obsessive madness – the internal – Black Swan’s conclusion was surprisingly tightly focussed (including the camerawork) on Nina and Nina alone, nearly ignoring the things on the boundaries of her self. This cinematographic / storytelling style worked quite well to make the story that Nina was telling the audience as the Swan Queen irrelevant in comparison to her growing fanaticism. By being too often zoomed in on her face than on her feet, we were made to see her emotions and not her ballet. Though I’d have much preferred to watch the symbolic representations of her own wing’d transformation and see the actual show she’d trained so hard for, this final chapter, shown to us in this way, made for an original and interesting study of Nina’s frenzied descent.
Yep, she's a babe

When someone asks me what my favourite film is, I quickly share this polished gem of a retort, “The best movie ever made is Requiem For A Dream,” qualifying ‘best’ because ‘favourite’ conjures up images of repeat viewings and happy feelings, something impossible to do with Requiem. Being a fan of Aronofsky doesn’t mean watching him over and over, it means seeing something with (hopefully) a deep resounding message. Requiem is his champion, The Wrestler shares it in spades and though Black Swan, being Thriller over Drama, is more on the escapist side of Aronofsky’s heavy spectrum, it’s a pleasant watch that did exceptionally well in box offices, not to mention being the latest cover of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Though Black Swan unfortunately doesn’t have the punch-in-the-gut lessons present in the rest of Aronofsky’s works, it’s much more welcome to his filmography than the intended 2010 Wolverine sequel he was slated for. Comparing Aronofsky to himself, I was surprised to find in Black Swan a film that was so commercial, pleasant and safe – or rather, a film so easy for mainstream audiences.

Black Swan opens hard and fast. Nina, consistently terrifically played by Natalie Portman, is dancing ballet with a monstrous black swan – Swan Lake’s sorcerer Rothbart - that conjures up images of Mephistopheles. Nina wakes up, happy to have dreamed of playing the famous part of Swan Queen. This dream is also the dream of all other ballerinas in her company – to be given that prize principal role. Eventually she is cast, perfect as the White Swan, exemplifying the character’s grace and virginal qualities. The challenge is in becoming the seductive black swan, in letting go, in losing herself to the dark waters she represents under the sorcerer’s spell. Dance company director Thomas (the indomitable Vincent Cassel), works her hard to become that fluid persona. From practicing with her into the night, to ordering her to sexually satisfy herself, he tries to bring her impure side out. A new addition to the company, the dark and sensual Lily (Mila Kunis) is her opposite – a perfect black swan who befriends Nina and guides her down the murky road Nina needs to travel to become the perfect Swan Queen. Nina’s task is a difficult one and she begins obsessing over the dream role she’s been given. The Drama now turns to psycho-sexual Thriller.

"That was me seducing you. It's supposed to be the other way around." - Thomas

Amazing in Irreversible as well as Mesrine, Vincent Cassel is quickly becoming my favorite French actor.
Amazing in Irreversible as well as Mesrine, Vincent Cassel is quickly becoming my favorite French actor.

Black Swan is unrelenting in its beautiful black-and-white colour palette, spackled with hints of greys and pinks. Aronofsky doesn't pull out extreme special effects and Avant-Garde psychological horror craziness as you would find in such Thrillers as Jacob’s Ladder, choosing to stay more in the realm of Nina’s inner turmoil, with heavy dabs of Kafkaesque symbolism, fear and the social aspects of her life: the relationships with her mother, her dance director and her new “friend” Lily. All the typical ballet clichés are included, without being preachy or overdone: bulimia, visceral jealousy, overbearing mothers, young hopeful ballerinas full of rage, full of gossip, full of hope. Wynona Ryder impresses as the older, washed-up dancer being shoved aside in favour of the younger. Although Black Swan wasn’t as daring and strange as I had hoped, Nina’s story is an enjoyable one, and worthy of making the glorious list that I live for.

She's definitely sexier as the dark one...
She's definitely sexier as the dark one...

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 84% (Graceful)

I came into Black Swan with the expectation of a gloriously Avant-Garde ending, deep and confounding as The Fountain, as symbolic as Pi, and hopefully half as beautiful as Requiem for a Dream. Black Swan is not art-house, it is not Avant-Garde. It is accessible, reasonable, logical, and only mildly symbolic. As such, it’s not surprising that it appeals to the mainstream. Although I had hoped for more madness, more confusion, more wild metamorphoses, Black Swan drove its point beautifully.

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“Black Swan” took me on a trip, giving away the torture many go through in a world where perfection is demanded. The visual effects are beautiful; as are all ballet films. Nothing can compare to the black swan scene where her arms turn into magnificent feathers. I agree that it would have been much more appropriate to show her emotion and her movements in the final scene. I can only imagine how hard she had to work in order to pull off that role, unless she had prior training. I have a passion for movies, which helps me on my frequent business trips for Dish. I use my spare time to watch and write for my blog. Because of this hobby, I subscribe to Blockbuster @Home, which gives me all the research materials I need. I can relax, and watch the movie I plan on writing about. I’m excited that our topic of discussion this week will be the movie “Black Swan”, as I know it will be a thrilling topic for all.

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