Title: Black Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Black Swan will be the most memorable flick you’ll see this year. Due to it being so amazingly strange! It’s a 107 minute marriage of Fame meets Poltergeist. Which basically equates to a psychological horror piece, with a Japanese flare.
Director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) brings his patent cinematography and fuses it with an acid-laced script. Audiences with either think he has created a masterpiece or a disaster-piece. Much like the ballet, one may or may not appreciate what is on the screen. And that’s fine because there may not be a right or wrong opinion on this flick.
Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballet dancer in a prestigious New York City company. She has been a role player for years but prominent director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is about to give her the complex lead role in the heralded Swan Lake. Thomas anoints her Swan Queen – even though he’s not fully convinced she is capable of performing what he is looking for – after he forces prima ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) into retirement. Nina is a perfectionist and spends hours practicing at the studio and at home – which may as well be studio number two – for her mother (Barbara Hershey) has her living and breathing ballet. Nina has never seconded guessed her mother until her hands-on director challenges the stressed out ballerina to find her dark side. Nina really has no clue how to please her director. Plus, her mother still treats her like a child as evident by the child-like bedroom, complete with stuffed animals.
As Nina attempts to channel the evil persona the role requires, she gets an unlikely assist from another dancer in the Swan Lake production. Lily (Mila Kunis) is a care-free spirit who looks to spice up any situation. Although her and Nina are complete opposites, Lily persists on engaging the recluse star. With the days flying by until opening night, Nina begins to have horrid visions stemming from her home life and her career. Visibly shaken and always crying, Nina does everything in her power to avoid having a nervous breakdown and missing out on a career-changing moment.
Well, this is by far the best acting ever seen in a flick with the horror tag attached to it. Portman and Kunis elevate their range and own every moment. Vincent Cassel is very strong in a supporting capacity even though he pretty much does the same shtick in the majority of his scenes. Barbara Hershey is creepy as Nina’s mother, but the jaded character seems incomplete. Would have liked a bit more development on why she is like this, which then would have also divulged more about the ballet world. The rigors of the ballet world are attributed to Nina’s erratic behavior but it’s tough to buy why this production is breaking her. Seems like it was from years of torture rather than one role.
As blood continuously drips, the physical and mental abuse of a ballerina’s life takes center stage. Exploring your inner-being is the main theme on display in this piece and it’s comparable to opening Pandora’s box. Who knows what you’ll find and become.
The Nina character is the equivalent to a catholic school girl who has left the nest and went off to college. Being sheltered from social pitfalls, the theme of throwing a little caution to the wind is over-indulged, and encouraged by her director and new lustful friend Lily. And this is where this flick can resemble an extremely polished and artsy Nightmare on Elm Street dream sequence. This will also be the period where the viewing audience will question if these two worlds should intertwined. Similar to mating an elephant with a mouse…Should this be attempted? Or is it so audacious and provocative, that we need to see what would come from this.
The emotional response Aronofsky was hoping to achieve is to have the audience get lost in the story. Almost in a trance. He successfully captures the audience for a while, but eventually they snap out of it and the way the piece closes lacks the crescendo the script is building toward. That said, one will be talking about this flick for months after the curtain drops.
Overall, Black Swan encompasses top-notch filmmaking all around. Gorgeous cinematography paired off with a titillating musical score and performances will keep your eyes fixated on every moment. The story can come off as flawed depending on what genre the audience perceives this to be. And that’s art for you. Black Swan is a painting on display, housed in a museum with a hefty price-tag. Half the people will adore it, the other will recite the common phrase, “Who would pay that much for this mess?”
Rating: 4 out of 5