Film Review: Black Swan

23 01 2011

I’ll be bringing you a film review today as on this quiet Sunday I went to see Black Swan; a tale of the world of ballet and the pursuit of perfection.

I settled into my seat, leaving the one empty between me and the wall. As I was on the first row in the mid-section, a little old lady took the seat beside me. “That’s sweet” I thought. “This nice old lady has gone out on her own to see a film about the ballet”. I had a sneaking suspicion that this movie was going to be a lot darker than this old dear anticipated and my first thoughts from the off were that the film was grainy and dirty and the studio where they train was a lot more rough and ready… this was not going to be pleasant.

Natalie Portman plays the young ballerina, Nina, who is chosen by the demanding director, Thomas (played by Vincent Cassell) to play the Swan Queen. I don’t know a great deal about ballet but we see that the part is normally played by two ballerinas as one plays the innocent and delicate white swan; a part which requires technical excellence and an air of innocence, and the other takes the part of the wilder, uninhibited black swan. Nina is perfect for the part of the white swan, but to her dismay, a dancer that embodies the essence of the black swan, Lily, played by Mila Kunis, has just arrived from San Francisco.

Very early on we learn that this season, Thomas is going to go against the status quo and awards the part of both white and black swan to Nina. This is both an extreme honor and a huge amount of pressure placed upon Nina’s shoulders. She’s so fragile and has a really strange relationship with her mother, played by Barbara Hershey who was also a ballerina. Coupling this with Thomas’ mounting pressure that she has to completely let herself go, Nina goes on an extremely surreal and visceral journey to what she feels is perfection, but what looks to be destroying her.

There are some extreme scenes and quite often, the audience can’t be sure that whether we are viewing the hallucinations of a troubled girl under too much pressure or if it is really happening and to be honest, I’m still not sure! The awkwardness I felt watching a lesbian scene between Kunis and Portman with a 70 year old lady next to me however, was very real.

I thought all parts were acted superbly and Cassel plays the part of a villain very well. I can definitely see why Portman is in line for an Oscar based on her performance as I know she can play a sexual character as I’ve seen it in other films, but she’s so innocent and fragile here and you really worry for her. Kunis on the other hand, has a consuming sexual energy and she’s brilliant in her supporting role. But did I enjoy it? I was entertained, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience but I don’t think it was supposed to be. It might have also had something to do with the old lady – I couldn’t even look her in the eye on the way out!

A really gritty, well acted film with a lot of imagination. It’s a little too nightmarish to see again and again but excellent none the less.

4/5

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