Natalie Portman has always had an up and down career, sometime she chooses her roles carefully (for example Garden State) but other times not she’s chooses the odd questionable job (Star War trilogy). After exploding on the scene in 1994 in Luc Besson’s phenomenal
it has taken her almost fifteen years until she has given a perfect performance in the form of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. After playing at the Venice Film festivals and several other film festivals the film has gradually built up momentum until it has finally been realised to the general public, however it definitely is a movie not suited for a lot of audiences despite the BBFC giving it a mere 15 certificate. Leon
The story follows perfectionist ballerina Nine (Natalie Portman) who becomes obsessed with gaining the role of the Swan Princess in the latest performance of
for a highly acclaimed ballet company. With an over baring and controlling mother (Barbara Hershey) and an eccentric director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) the pressure on Nina becomes a heavy burden. After being told time after time that she’s a perfect Swan Queen however lacks the power to play the swans evil twin the Black Swan, Nina begins to descend into madness and the line between what is reality and what’s in her head are drastically blurred. On top of that new competition in the form of free spirited girl Lily (Mila Kunis) comes in to wreak Nina’s new found fame. Or is she? Swan Lake
For a film in which it’s themes of oppression, obsession and perfection have become common ground, Aronofsky handles them excellently as they feel new and fresh. The dark material is handled excellently as the movie becomes unpredictable as we see Nina’s fractured state. It is also hard to pin point a specific genre for the movie, is it a horror? A dancing movie? A psychological thriller? Who knows? Aronofsky rehashes the same themes he showed with The Wrestler (2008) but moves beyond it in almost every way. The stark black and white feel to the movie is both beautiful but at some points menacing. Aronofsky’s themes of self destructions which are see in all his films such as Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler are once again back as well as his very dark nature which is present towards the end as the horrific third act plays out. The handheld direction is far from Paul Greengrass territory as it reflects Nina’s state of mind and clever camera techniques make the camera invisible around the ballet studios. This is an artistic movie where the director has used modern technology to tell a story rather then avoid one.
It is easy to see how the movie have been compared to The Red Shoes (1948) mixed with the work of David Cronenberg and Dario Argento as Aronofsky shows the beauty but hardships of pursuing your love. The rituals which Randy the Ram religiously went though in The Wrestler are echoed as we see Nina crack bones and modify her ballet shoes like a professional. Portman in fact even took a year out to train in Ballet and is it clearly apparent here as she moves as if she’s being dancing for years,
It has to be said that Portman’s near flawless performance as the fragile performer is incomparable to any female performances in the past year. However she’s doesn’t just steal the show as Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and even Wynona Ryder all play significant roles. All the performances are moving and horrifyingly believable.
Black Swan is definitely a movie for certain audiences who can stomach certain scenes which I couldn’t begin to describe without spoiling plot points. It will have anyone turning away at the graphic images which have an artistic beauty to them. And the movies crescendo will leave you emotionally drained and make you doubt your shadow. This definitely won’t be Aronofsky’s swan song however he has set a bar for himself which will be hard to follow.
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