January 2, 2011
I am not really a fan of ballet. Ordinarily I would not really catch a film with this setting. However in this case, the Oscar buzz surrounding "Black Swan" made me want to watch it. So I watched, and I was enthralled by its artistry and repelled by its subject matter at the same time.
"Black Swan" tells of Nina, a promising young ballet dancer, who led a very sheltered life shuttling on trains between her ballet and her home with a domineering mother. When she wins the lead role of Swan Queen in an upcoming production of "Swan Lake," she begins to mentally unravel in the most disturbing emotional, psychological, and physical (?) breakdown captured on screen. Can she successfully pull off the dance role she had dreamed off all her life, or will her demons turn her dreams into a nightmare?
We see Natalie Portman like we have never seen her before. She is both very fragile and very daring in her tour de force performance as the rigid and repressed girl obsessed with perfection. Her ballet sequences were very realistic. She was truly a prima ballerina in this production. Not even a lesbian love scene could deter her. Her Oscar for Best Actress is clearly in her grasp. Mila Kunis plays Lily, a rival dancer with a carefree and natural dance style, with so much vitality to contrast with Portman's frigidity. Barbara Hershey plays Nina's mother, whom we could not immediately see as good or bad for her.
It is impossible to describe in words this very visual film experience. I would not want to spoil things for you. You will not know which things are real and not. This is NOT just a ballet movie. Amidst the beauty, there is a persistently disturbing and downright scary tone as the movie reaches its climax. You will be hypnotized, but several times you would also want to stop watching the film. The disturbing images will stay with you. Like ballet, this film is also not for everyone, but for me, director Darren Aronofsky has created himself a classic psychological thriller.