Black Swan

| January 18, 2011 | Comments (3)

Black Swan

DIR: Darren Aronofsky • WRI: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin PRO: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Brian Oliver DOP: Matthew Libatique ED: Andrew Weisblum • DES: Thérèse DePrez CAST: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey

The struggle for complete perfection, leading to unhealthy obsession, one of the most potent and destructive human instincts is at the core of Black Swan. Natalie Portman embodies Nina, an innocent, protected and technically perfect ballet dancer in a New York City ballet company. At the start of the film, we witness her dedication and longing to be the prima ballerina and also the pressure her mother puts on her. Elegant Natalie Portman finds her perfect role, as Nina Sayers. She showcases her ballet training as a child, by transforming into a ballerina for the role.

From the outset, the viewer is transported into the world of ballet with Nina dancing the swan queen of Swan Lake on stage. The score is instantly distorted and disjointed and those familiar with the original score of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake will notice that throughout the film it is played backwards. This musical distortion by Clint Mansell corresponds with the warped tones of the film and the stunning use of camera movement and lighting by Aronofsky throughout the film. From the moment we are acquainted with Nina as she wakes up from her vivid dream in her bedroom, we see her world completely revolves around dance. Although clearly not a child, her mother who overtly was once a dancer herself, wields an intense influence over her and pushes her to succeed.

Her mother is played brilliantly by Barbara Hershey, executing transitions from sweet mother to distorted obsessive to tyrant with skill. Nina’s room is childlike despite her being a grown woman. It is predominantly pink and filled with ballerina stuffed-toys. This provides us with a disturbing backdrop to the bedroom scenes throughout the film. It also reminds us of her sheltered background. The atmosphere is dark, intense and suffocating as we follow Nina. We overhear with Nina in a dressing room that the company will be looking for a new swan queen for the new season as the current ballerina is passed her prime as ballerinas soon get. She is Beth Mcintyre played with vigour by Winona Ryder. Although her time of screen is brief, Ryder truly delivers some disturbing and critical moments as the reluctant retiring dancer and idol of Nina. From her first scene, Lily, provides the contrast or repressed side to Nina. Lily is played by the beautiful Mila Kunis, who holds her own opposite Portman’s Nina. Throughout the film, representing what Nina is lacking – a free and sexual being – Lily pushes her increasingly towards insanity in a quest to embrace her dark side in order to represent both the white and black swan.

We are introduced to the artistic director of the company, Thomas Leroy played with commanding presence by Vincent Cassel in the opening company-ballet class. He officially informs them of his quest to find a new swan queen. He swiftly picks ballerinas he wishes to audition for the role and Nina is one of them. Nina dances a beautiful white swan in her audition but Leroy is unconvinced that Nina can portray the black swan and so disregards her for the part. However Nina’s yearning for the role and pressure from her mother spurs her to speak privately to Leroy the next day. She informs him, that she has been practicing and asks for another chance. He informs her that it is her inability to let go that makes him think she could not pull off the role. However when she reacts aggressively to his advances he changes his mind and she gets the part. He quickly forces her to depart from her fragile innocence, when she is not dancing in order to be able to execute the black swan on stage. We see her struggling with her own pure nature and her deep desire to become a perfect swan queen. This conflict leads to her grip on reality becoming increasingly warped.

Truly deserving of the Golden Globe Best Actress Win, Portman is exceptional in this film. She portrays the two sides to her character with powerful and sinister distinction and tension. The internal and external struggle is played out beautifully and intensely, with an intoxicating synthesis of intense sensuality, suffocation and disturbia which ends in a powerful climax. It is a beautiful, sexy and equally terrifying cinematic experience that deserves all the recognition that it has received and is to come. Having studied ballet and being a lover of the art, I was interested to see how the ballet world would be translated in the film, but the potency of the film can be related to any rigorous discipline that can lead to obsession and gradually a descent into insanity on the road to unprecedented. As humans we all struggle with the tension of the dark and light in our lives. This is an extraordinary film that no one should miss.

Órla Walshe

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)

Black Swan is released 21st Jan 2011

Black Swan – Official Website

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Category: Cinema Reviews, Reviews

Comments (3)

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  1. Gemma says:

    Totally disappointed with this film. It’s like a better-looking version of Pi.

    Darren and Wolverine deserve each other.

  2. kate says:

    totally mesmerising. Portman is hugely impressive, not only by her command of the discipline but she’s in every scene – or at least that’s the impression I have – and the 4 other cast members equally impressive.

  3. brian says:

    Saw this movie last night – this is a wonderful review of it – spot on !

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