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Review: Black Swan

January 11, 2011

(Photo Credit - m4tik @ Flickr)

Natalie Portman puts in an outstanding performance as Nina Sayers; a fragile, sexually repressed ballet dancer who, in her search for perfection, sees the lines between reality and performance begin to blur.

The film centres on a ballet company’s production of ‘Swan Lake.’ Desperate to mix up a dusty old story, the Director, Thomas Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel), chooses to cast one girl to play both the white and the black swans. His initial judgement is that Nina is too innocent to be able to play the black swan but gives her the chance anyway and the film follows Nina as she explores her darker side. The audience are kept in the dark as to whether she is simply buckling under the pressure or actually going insane and it is this ambiguity which keeps the film afloat.

In a performance which should earn Portman an Oscar nomination, we are presented with a young woman who is under pressure from her failure of a Mother wishing to live vicariously, her Director who is anxious to see Nina explore her inner-sex kitten, as well as the other girls and, in particular, Lily (played by Mila Kunis) who has recently joined the company from San Francisco and is all about the care free attitude and good times – the absolute opposite of Nina. As the film progresses, it is Lily who, in part, becomes the source of Nina’s paranoia and again, the nature of their relationship is blurred by her increasingly poor grip on reality.

The film’s direction is beautifully completed by Darren Aronofsky. He uses the dance to aid the flow of the film and what could have been quite an incoherent film, is in fact a visual masterpiece which is easy to follow despite the plot’s ambiguity. Aronofsky guides the audience through a story which mirrors that of ‘Swan Lake’ and uses the idea of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ to present the two sides of every coin that we all are.

Overall, I found the film to be an enjoyable exploration into the perfectionism of an artist. If truth does reflect beauty then this film is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful I have seen for a while.

One Response to Review: Black Swan

  1. Jonathan Davis on January 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Watched the film this afternoon and I have to admit to being deeply impressed. One thing that really stood out for me was the utter disorientation I experienced, never really having an clue as to whether what I was seeing was real or a figment of Nina’s imagination.

    The metaphorical transformation of the character’s physical form into a Swan was fantastic, and at times disturbing. The film was so incredibly tense throughout, emotionally, physically and sexually. I came away from the cinema utterly drained.

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