While Black Swan has a decent script that was written by a few people who managed to make it dark, entertaining, intelligent and stylish it must be said that this movie is most definitely a showcase for director Darren Aronofsky, and it also allows Natalie Portman to give arguably the best performance of her career.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have started off with that sentence. After all, Black Swan has already been heaped with quite enough praise in the small period of time that has seen it build up to it’s major release.
But, despite the core of the movie being a rather simplistic take on an artist striving for perfection while risking everything else (in this case it’s Natalie Portman’s ballerina who wants to make the central role in Swan Lake her very own), it deserves all the praise it has received.
Portman’s character, Nina, has just as much in common with the wasted addicts in Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream as she does with Mickey Rourke’s character in The Wrestler and her growing paranoia, obsession and fear allow for a number of tricks and sleight of hand that some may see as cheating but that makes for many superb, constantly unexpected, cinematic moments.
A lot of the imagery and thematic content is obvious, considering the main story strand, and while it could be criticised for it’s clumsy overuse of mirror imagery and the obvious parallel of the white swan/black swan and Portman’s Nina alongside loose wildchild Lily (Mila Kunis) the movie manages to negate such comment by it’s audacity and dazzling style. And there’s always the fact that the world of ballet, when not on the grand stage, is one often set in a world of mirrors.
The cast isn’t as successful as the technical side of the film but Portman is great and Kunis is very good. Barbara Hershey, as Nina’s justifiably worried mother, is fantastic. Vincent Cassel plays a brash and manipulative director and his character feels like quite the stereotype so he never shines although he does well with what he has. Winona Ryder is the other major player and brings some baggage to her character of Beth Macintyre, a past ballet star and beauty now replaced by someone younger and even more beautiful.
The movie has a decent soundtrack, as you would probably expect, and features some classic ballet excerpts but I have to end by restating that this is all about the style and visuals more than anything else. It’s a dark, dark psychological piece that incorporates some nasty body horror not for the squeamish, plays with the notion of identity and losing yourself in great work and looks at where people can go to when they want to access their inner darkness.
It’s not the perfect movie that some may be saying it is but sit yourself down in the darkness of the cinema to watch Black Swan and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be entertained and blown away from the very beginning to the very end. Which is a bit of a rarity nowadays.
DIRECTOR: DARREN ARONOFSKY
CAST: NATALIE PORTMAN, MILA KUNIS, BARBARA HERSHEY, VINCENT CASSEL, WINONA RYDER
RUNTIME: 108 MINS APPROX