Newest Review: ... the black swan, and Natalie is very convincing as an angelic figure that cannot break through. Which is where Mila Kunis comes in aptly... more
"It Was Perfect"
Black Swan (DVD)
Member Name: oxonian
Black Swan (DVD)
Date: 21/03/13, updated on 21/03/13 (29 review reads)
Advantages: Powerful, theatrical, dramatic, elegant, graceful, dark, sinister... beautiful!
Disadvantages: May be too dark, sexual or sinister for the feint-hearted
Black Swan centres around a gifted, graceful and technically perfect ballet dancer called Nina. Nina's ballet teacher, Thomas Leroy, chooses Nina to play the Swan Queen in the theatrical perfomance of Tshaikovski's Swan Lake - a story, simply but poignantly described by Nina, about "a girl who gets turned into a swan (white swan) and she needs love to break the spell. But her Prince falls for the wrong girl (black swan), and so she kills herself". Thomas recognises Nina's natural ability to play the innocent and virginally pure white swan and through a rejected advance he makes on her, sees there is potential for her to play the black swan ("the wrong girl"). However, Nina struggles to connect with the Black Swan's intensely dark, sexy, sensual and immoral persona that she needs to portray - and perceives a rival dancer called Lily as a fierce competitor for her role if she fails. We, the audience, are chronologically taken through Nina's immensely dark personal journey to see if she succeeds in playing both parts of the role in Swan Lake.
Performances, Production & Direction
Natalie Portman plays the starring role of Nina beautifully, diminutive in stature, very pale in colour and delicate in manner, she is the personification of the white swan. Her manner is very timid, she is sexually frigid and she is controlled by her domineering mother who was once a ballet dancer herself, and stopped to bring up Nina. Likewise, Nina is very controlled as a dancer, technically accurate, and almost perfect in executing her turns - matching the elegance needed for the white swan. However, as the rehearsals progress and get closer to the performance, Nina cannot make the metamorphosis to the white swan's evil twin, the black swan, and Natalie is very convincing as an angelic figure that cannot break through. Which is where Mila Kunis comes in aptly.
Mila plays the role of Lily - the antithesis of Nina, a provocative, sensual, sexy ballet dancer, who smokes, drinks, takes drugs - the personification of the 'black swan'. Lily starts of as a barrier to Nina's development. Nina sees how naturally Lily can be the black swan character and how easily she lets herself go of herself in her performances, where Nina is always in control of her technique and general actions. However, Lily becomes part of Nina's life, and the more she is exposed to Lily's way of living, the darker she becomes. Mila has a mischievously sexy look about her, which works very well as she cunningly tries to usurp the role as Swan Queen. There is one very sexual scene between her and Natalie, which may appear visually shocking but the chemistry between the two characters manifests effortlessly.
Winona Rider plays Beth, a sinister, desrtuctive and dangerous-minded ballet dancer who has been retired from the dance school by Thomas. Beth sees the new and upcoming star Nina rising up the ranks in contrast to her decline and her obscene jealousy leads her to attempt suicide. Her character and the influences on it are paramount to what we later see become of Nina. Winona is a great choice for her enigmatic features and her experienced acting talent in these troubled roles.
Vincent Cassel is great as Thomas, a mentor that is paramount to Nina's potential transition. Vincent brilliantly portrays this steely, clever and ambitious mentor with a gift for nurturing talent. He is ruthless in his goals, retiring Beth and choosing Lily to be Nina's alternate. Thomas knows how to get the best out his dancers - balancing encouragement with aggression and going to the extremes of seduction to push Nina through the frigid barriers she has erected.
Ultimately, the winning performance is Darren Aronofski's direction. The grittiness, reality, and the fantasy explored in this film convey his very creative and raw mind, one which has enabled a very visceral and cerebral masterpiece to unfold in front of our eyes. The camerawork is very up close to the faces of the actors. In a film about drama, theatre and emotion, this helps the audience connect with the character, and connect with the drama. I felt drawn into this film with ease and gripped until the final curtain. We see very frantic camera work in the scenes where there is drama, and we see very smooth and slow camera work when we see the dancing, emphasising the elegant art of ballet dancing. The production of light and dark colours dramatically work and intellectually compare with the White and Black swan characters that are central to the film.
The use of soundtrack is intelligent, where Tshaikovski's classical masterpieces are used to heighten and progress the drama throughout the film, with the help of the Chemical Brothers to create the edge. That edge manifests through the physical changes to Nina's body, where we see cuts and blood to injuries she has mysteriously obtained. Nina is confronted with an alter ego throughout the film - played also by Natalie Portman, darker and sexier looking but a figment of her imagination. We see these transformations to her body reach an incredible climax in the film.
In my opinion Black Swan is more than a film, its more than a theatrical masterpiece... I see Black Swan as an allegory of life itself. It subjects you to the truth that everyone has a dark side as well as a good side. In Nina's search for perfection, we see the extreme of her dark side, to get that perfect performance. All she wants is to be the perfect dancer, which she perceives as coming from technical perfection, but goes through a brutal learning curve to realise that to let go and go beyond her conscious performance of dancing, is what gains perfection.
You do not need to be at all interested in ballet dancing to watch this. The action, the drama and the humanity of the film is strong enough to overpower the fact that this is a film about ballet dancing. It is a film that anyone who has ever believed in a passion strong enough will appreciate. Admittedly, it is a dark film, and one that is not for the feint hearted to watch. There are many sexually driven scenes, so this is not one for kids and not one which the prudish will appreciate per se, but are necessary as Nina tries to break through her delicate barriers.
I connected with this film from the beginning, and by the end I was literally overwhelmed with emotion, in a way one would be to connecting with opera. The drama conveyed in this film is powerful and consuming. I found myself sat back one minute, on the edge of my seat another, biting my fingernails the next, and then just overwhelmed. It is brilliantly put together, and I find it difficult not to use hyperbole when describing it. I have not personally seen a film like this, but I have seen theatre and opera like this, and for the drama to manifest so well on screen I think make this one of the best films ever produced.
Natalie Portman ... Nina Sayers / The Swan Queen
Mila Kunis ... Lily / The Black Swan
Vincent Cassel ... Thomas Leroy / The Gentleman
Barbara Hershey ... Erica Sayers / The Queen
Winona Ryder ... Beth Macintyre / The Dying Swan
Running time: 103 minutes
Certificate: 15 years or over