Under Review: ‘Black Swan’


After watching Darren Aronofsky’s tour de force “Black Swan,” I can vehemently say I’ll never view “Swan Lake” the same again. Yes, the ballet itself has always had dark undertones, but never in my wildest imaginings could I have envisioned anything as visceral and sinister as Aronofsky’s latest work of art.

Similar to “The Wrestler,” in that the movie revolves around a professional athlete obsessed, the subject for this film is ballet. Known as an elegant art form, Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” unveils the dark side of dance, and what one does to achieve ultimate perfection, in what will be remembered as one of the most disturbing films of the year.

“Black Swan” begins with the beautiful Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballerina whose main ambition in life is to land the prestigious part of Swan Queen in the classic Swan Lake. Mere minutes within the film, we soon realize this goal is Nina’s torment. So obsessed with her dream, she puts herself through physical and emotional agony. With a diet consisting of grapefruit and frequent trips to the bathroom, she’s bone thin and her toes bleed due to hours upon hours of grueling practice on point.

As one would expect, all of this has an adverse affect on Nina’s mind and her overbearing and psychotic mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), is of little help. More of an enabler, Erica lives vicariously through her daughter as once upon time she too had a dream of being a prima ballerina. But that dream was dashed the moment she became pregnant with Nina.

Where does Mila Kunis’ character Lily fit in you may ask? As the trailer alludes, she is the exact opposite of Nina and her competition. Lily is wild and daring where Nina is frigid and virginal. In short, Lily encompasses everything Nina is not, yet strives to be in order to be the perfect Swan Queen.

I’d rather not share any more than that. To divulge more would lesson the impact of the film once watched. And it is quite the blow to the cerebrum. Because of the unsettling imagery woven throughout the film and Clint Mansell’s powerful and haunting score, “Black Swan” will be compared to Aronofsky’s unrelenting “Requiem for a Dream.”

Of course, the spot-on acting from the cast is what completes the film and hopefully each effort will not be ignored by the Academy. Portman was painfully brilliant. Having trained for a year beforehand, she had perfect form and it seemed as if she had danced for years. Simply put, her performance is otherworldly.

At the screening I attended last night, Aronofsky informed the audience he is fascinated by an actor’s ability to completely lose his or herself in a role. Attributing it to tapping into ethereal energy, every film he’s directed is meant as a forum for the actor to be able to do just that. This is why he is able to get the best performance from each person he’s worked with and it’s also why many want to work with him.

“Black Swan” opens in theaters Dec. 3.

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4 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Adam Poynter #

    I also had the pleasure of seeing this movies a few months ago and I was blown away! The Oscar talk for Portman is well deserved and both her and Kunis give memorable performances. I think this is one of the best movies that Darren Aronofsky has ever made! An intense, but must see movie.

  2. 2

    This is the only movie being released between now and the end of the year that I’m actually excited to see. I’m very relieved that most “real” audiences (meaning, not movie critics) seem to love it.

  3. Mary G. #

    Barbara Hershey deserves an Oscar for Best Supporting for this performance!

  4. 4

    Saw this at TIFF. Saw it again when it came out! What a difference a crowd makes!!! I will so be buying the DVD! A MUST SEE!!!!

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