Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)


Natalie Portman (Nina Sayers), Mila Kunis (Lily), Vincent Cassel (Thomas Leroy). Screenplay by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Rating: 15. Running time: 108 minutes.

Black Swan is without a doubt up there with The Social Network, Biutiful and Inception as a worthy contender for the title of being the most stunning film of the year. It is in so many ways a film we are incredibly familiar with, and yet it is done so well as to almost reach perfection in the horror-thriller illusion-reality mind-fuck genre. Just think The Shining, especially Jack Torrance’s slow demise into senility, and you’ll get a good idea of how incredibly twisted this one is. Natalie Portman plays ballet dancer Nina Sayers, preparing for a production of Swan Lake in which she will play both Black and White Swan. She is rarely off the screen, everything we see being from her perspective, and with her split psyche on stage also comes chaos in her actual character. She’s manipulated by her teacher, a man at one moment appearing to be classically perverted and then seconds later a true genius. Another dancer, Mila, seems at one moment warm and then the next utterly conniving. Add in Nina’s schizo, dance-obsessed and overly proud mother at home and you start to appreciate how Nina, already a fragile soul, is hurled around in a world full of mind games, utter dedication and apparent insanity, all for the sake of the purest and most saintly of arts.

Portman is almost a certain for Best Actress here. She dances around Aronofsky’s world as fearful of it as we are, as time and time again her hallucinations spiral out of control and reach higher levels of absurdity. Her feet are a mess, but the slow destruction of that part of the body is part of the trade. The same can’t be said of an apparently claw-like cut in her back, and her fingernails that go from perfectly rounded to cut down and bleeding as she flips from fantasy to fact and back again. The feeling of uncertainty created by these type of scenes penetrates the whole of Black Swan, but it is only in a late sequence, as the first performance draws near, that the horror accumulates to an almost indescribable level. At least twenty minutes go by in which we are slaves gripped to Aronofsky’s images, every new room and moment building upon the terror Nina experienced in the last.

This is a very easy film to appreciate. There’s no subtlety attempted in the loud, stupidly stunning cinematography, which makes ballet sequences utterly entrancing for what is at least the first time in my life. Neither is the cast interested in doing anything except blowing us away. The same, ultimately, applies to Aronofsky, who in working behind all of this weaves magic as amazing as Nina’s teacher in his drive for visual perfection. Prepare to be steered through a furious heroin trip at an intoxicating one thousand miles an hour.

3 Responses to “Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)”

  1. 1 anon

    feel free to delete this. but film of the year? its 2011

    loved the rest of your review, as per!

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