Black Swan (2010)
Rated – R
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel
It’s interesting to note that Black Swan and The Wrestler started as one movie. Director Darren Aronofsky said in an interview with MTV that he was developing a project with a love affair between a ballet dancer and a wrestler. Thankfully, he split the two characters into separate movies. The outcome was two outstanding films that stand out on their own.
The films are similar in the aspect that these two entertainers go down a dark and troubled road to the end of their careers, or even worse. Rourke’s Randy “The Ram” was already at the end of his career while he tried to make amends with his other life in the real world. Here in Black Swan, Natalie Portman’s Nina finds herself in the prime of her career when she’s cast as the Swan Queen,which is supposed to be the beginning to the fame she deserves from years of hard work. But soon Nina is overwhelmed with the pressure that went into such a role.
In Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” the conflict of good versus evil is displayed and inevitably concludes in tragedy. Nina is supposed to play both roles. There is no question she can play the White Swan since her beauty, grace, and perfection are her natural attributes, but the role of the Black Swan is questionable. She has to become dark, seductive, and free. The ballet’s director, Tomas Leroy (Cassel) does what he can to stir the pot in her Black Swan, but she’s the only person who can release the wild side of herself.
There are a lot of wheels turning in this film. The former lover and recently retired ballerina, Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) attempts suicide and represents a warning to Nina of things to come. Then there’s Lily (Kunis) who is the new dancer from the West Coast and the complete opposite person and dancer that Nina is. Lily is confident and spontaneous and very persuasive. Nina believes Lily is out to replace her as the Swan Queen and does everything in her power to make sure that doesn’t happen. Finally, there is Nina’s mom, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer who now babies Nina as if she’s molding the dancer that she wish she could’ve been. Their relationship is a peculiar one. They interact like sisters but there is a suppression that Nina goes through. Erica is suffocating her and Nina lashes out.
The movie takes on a typical plot of the underdog finally getting the role and her ups and downs dealing with the pressure that goes hand-in-hand with becoming a star. But then Black Swan takes a dark turn into Nina’s mind, full of horrifying hallucinations and dreams that she confuses as reality. The toll it takes on Nina is shown through Portman’s extensive and controlled expressions. She’s screaming on the inside while trying to fight her tears on the outside. This might be Portman’s finest work as an actress to date.
While the film revolves around Nina’s pursuit for perfection, she never understands that is something that is impossible to achieve. The film is tragic, showing a young girl who consumed her life in only one of the many circles one can be a part of. There is so much life to live no matter who you are, but Nina’s only concern was the ballet. In that sacrifice, she loses herself in the dangers that is the search for perfection.
Black Swan plays out like a ballet on screen. The music compliments the beauty displayed from the dances and the actors. While there are elements of horror and the occasional attempt at a “gotcha” scare, what’s truly terrifying is watching the potential of a young girl destroy herself as each frame passes. The conclusion will leave you breathless, but I’m not too certain if you will want to rewatch the film anytime soon after.