I absolutely love movies about dance (when done right: Center Stage, A Chorus Line, Dirty Dancing, Step Up / when done wrong: The Company, Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, One Last Dance) so I was thrilled to hear all the buzz about Black Swan directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman.
The film is intense, erotic, scary, dark, and haunting. It’s the kind of movie that sticks with you – the kind where you find yourself thinking about certain themes or have images flash through your head at random moments during the day. Aronofsky highlights the elegance and edginess in an art form that takes so much from its artists. The powerful imagery, the beautiful dancing, and the amazing acting make Black Swan a must see.
Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina striving for perfection and she has the opportunity to perform her first title role as Odette/Odile (the white and black swans respectively) in Swan Lake. She is charged with embodying Odile by the artistic director, played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel – a challenge Nina takes to the extreme. The plot is fairly simple with typical characters of a dance film, but the viewer has to decipher what is real from what is in the mind of Nina. Also, one must think, does Nina have a psychological disorder from the beginning or has she let herself be consumed by ambition which when combined with her mother’s obsession has a nasty, mutilating effect on a young girl who has been trapped in a sheltered bubble her whole life?
There were a few times where I felt like Aronofsky was showing us things that could’ve been inferred. For instance, the mother’s (Barbara Hershey) infatuation and overbearing nature was made very obvious by her room filled with drawings/paintings of Nina. The pastels of Nina’s room along with her throwing out her stuffed animals clearly showed us that she has lived a sheltered life and she is now shedding that innocence. It was clear that Lily (Mila Kunis) wasn’t a typical ballerina because she danced with her hair down. Nina’s obsession with Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) was made obviously clear with the large number of stolen items.
All in all, Black Swan is a beautiful, thought-provoking, can’t tear your eyes away, “I’m going to have nightmares” film.