Black Swan

Directed by:
Darren Aronofsky

Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel 

Overall Impression:
A timeless Degas. On acid.

I’m not at all surprised that Black Swan has so many award nominations. Undoubtedly, it is a beautiful film. Which is ironic considering how it focuses on the malignant darkness of a  mentally broken woman, normally an ugly perspective, indeed.

Ballet is probably one of the most stunning performing arts you will ever witness. But with that characteristic grace and strength comes a very crass behind-the-stage look at what a ballerina’s life is like. As with so many athletic sports, ballet thrives on youth and stamina. The brutal reality of what a dancer does to her body in order to grace the stage is a ruthless reminder of what an  extreme illusion every performance is. In that sense the movie is spot on. It’s not all tutus and tights and willowy creatures… it’s torn ligaments and broken toes and eating disorders. And (at least in this case) psychosis.

Natalie Portman portrays Nina Sayers, a young woman yearning to emerge from the company as its new prima ballerina. Her predecessor is Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) an axed diva who has simply aged past her prime and forced into early retirement. For someone with so few actual scenes, Ryder gives a stellar performance. As Nina is selected to be the White Swan in the company’s production of Swan Lake, her mother, played by Barbara Hershey, worries that her daughter cannot withstand the pressures of being the lead. Add to that mix the demanding director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) who uses sexual tension to fuel Nina’s performances, and her rival/potential best friend Lily (Mila Kunis) and you have on screen the formula that is Nina’s undoing.

I could give you an in-depth account of what I believe happened in the storyline. But another aspect of the movie’s allure is that it is open to interpretation. After all, the one thing everyone agrees on is that Nina is fastly losing her mind. The question is how much of what she experiences is in her head. Her mother is clearly disturbed as well, after having given up her life’s dream of being a ballerina to have and raise Nina. She shelters Nina to the point of suffocation.  Is she the catalyst for Nina’s downward spiral, or was she simply protecting her daughter from her fragile state of mind? Then there’s Lily. She wants to be Nina’s friend… maybe. Or perhaps she wants to be Nina’s lover. Or maybe Nina admire’s Lilly’s wild abandon so much that she is sexually attracted to her. Or maybe Lilly is nothing more than the corporeal manifestation of Nina’s psychosis. It’s just one of the unanswered questions you will walk away with.

There are layers of darkness that borderline actual horror in this film, and personally I enjoy that tremendously. The mind is a twisted, visceral landscape, and this movie travels it well.  It reminds me a little bit of Jacob’s Ladder — how much of it happened in the head, and how much was real. I could watch it repeatedly and still not have all the answers.

And that, my friends, is what gives it kick. Perpetual intrigue will always keep you coming back for more.

With an entire cast of fantastic performances and an impressive storyline, this is a film well worth the cost of a movie ticket. See it at the theater, or wait to see it at home. Either way, you will not be disappointed.

Black Swan receives 4.5 out of 5 fuzzies  


3 Responses to “Black Swan”

  1. You see, it’s reviews like this that make me so much more eager to watch Black Swan than I ever would for Facebook: The Movie. It sounds like there is just so much more to take in from this movie.

  2. Definitely more to this one than surface fluff. I kinda wanna go back and see it again now…

  3. There are few films that left such an impression on the man. This is an extraordinary work of cinema.

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