Director: Darren Aronofsky
“Aronofsky’s unique vision implies that there can be no true greatness without touching the darkest parts of existence, and he makes this all too clear through highly subjective storytelling reminiscent of Roman Polanski‘s Rosemary’s Baby (1968)” (Steven Jay Schneider, 922, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
Schneider is certainly right when he says “while lacking the honest inner dialogue of its predecessor and companion piece, The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan‘s mix of psychological torments and classic horror elements will be sure to haunt you long after the curtains close.” (922) Darren Aronofsky’s films are always elegantly shot but really quite dark and disturbing and Black Swan is no different. Black Swan is in some ways much closer to a horror film than anything else, with some quite gruesome shots – Portman drawing a feather out from under her skin is particularly distressing.
Barbara Hershy as Nina’s mother takes pushy, overbearing parent to a whole new level. Nina is trapped within a bedroom that has not changed since she hit puberty which looks ridiculous now she is clearly an adult. Having her mother helping her dress and undress does little to maintain the image of capable young woman. It’s no wonder Nina is seen as innocent and stifled as she is when you consider her home life. She’s never really been allowed to actually grow up. I found the scenes between Nina and her mother disquieting which is saying something when the whole film has an unsettling tone to it.
“Lines of reality and hallucination blur as we follow Nina’s spiraling hysteria.” (922) Nina’s hallucinations, which are a recurring theme throughout Aronofsky’s body of work, are vivid and disorienting to watch. I’m still not entirely sure what happened during the final sequence.
Mila Kunis bounces off Natalie Portman perfectly. As the Black Swan she is the antithesis of Nina’s White Swan. She is everything Nina isn’t – confident, outgoing and very much aware of and comfortable in her sexuality.
Winona Ryder makes a brief but memorable appearance as the damaged aging star of the ballet company.
Natalie Portman is mesmerizing in her performance of the innocent and fragile Nina. You feel every single moment on her journey to perfectly embody both the roles of the White Swan and the Black Swan at the drastic cost of her health and sanity. “Her simple injuries (broken toenail, back rash) fester into debilitating conditions, and the manifestations of her subconscious threaten to overpower her completely as she risks her sanity and soul to access the darkness and danger that lurks beneath her innocent surface.” (922)
“Benjamin Millepied does a fantastic job of choreographing the film, particularly the opening and closing sequences, which pitch us headfirst into the fever and frenzy of Swan Lake.” (922) The choreography is arresting though I would expect nothing less from a film whose core theme is performing the famous Swan Lake ballet. Despite the insanity inducing aspects Black Swan tapped into my unfulfilled desire to be able to dance ballet. After all doesn’t every little girl go through a ballerina phase? It also left me wanting to go and see a ballet for the first time.