Movie Review: “Black Swan” (2010) A+

Black Swan Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman plays the Black Swan

I left the movie theater four hours ago. In my mind there is but one thing: Black Swan. Darren Aronofsky’s new film was intense and riveting. I was transfixed by what is definitely one of the year’s finest movies, featuring one of the year’s best performances.

Black Swan deals with a particular kind of struggle that demands completeness. One plot hole would shatter the entire atmosphere the filmmakers so exquisitely created and send the movie head first into the dumper. But fail they did not. The type of struggle I’m referring to is the internal struggle. We all suffer with it in different degrees. For dramatic purposes, the struggle in the film was heightened exponentially. But it worked.

Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a ballerina in a New York City ballet company.  The movie opens with Nina on the stage performing a beautiful choreography. Portman is ravishing. Her talent transcending acting into a flawless dance. Aronofsky’s floating camera also intensifies the dance.  The next scene reveals that it was just a dream. This foreshadows the film’s main facet: it is internal and psychological. Nina is a dedicated performer, but her desire for perfection becomes a burden that takes over her life. As reality and fantasy blend together, Nina loses control and succumbs under pressure. The villain is herself. Contrary to what she assumes, no one is trying to play dirty to replace her. This becomes her demise.

Evincing Nina’s passion and determination, the movie jumps from the ballet company to Nina’s house and vice versa, back and forth. These are the only two locales she knows. Only two major scenes betray this dynamic: the first is in a gala dinner when Nina is announced as the Swan Queen; the second is when Nina accepts to go to a bar to loosen up a bit – something she does reluctantly. Also, everyone in the movie is connected to ballet. This is the only milieu she enjoys and the only life she knows.

Mila Kunis plays Lily, the dancer who’s selected to be Nina’s alternate. She’s also the one best suited to embody the Black Swan in the ballet. But Nina is still the director’s first choice because the dancer has to be able to perform both the White Swan and the Black Swan – and Nina does it better. One of the audience’s favorite scene is when Lily and Nina engage in some lesbian lovin’. Or do they?

Natalie Portman's nemesis is herself.

Tchaikovsky’s Black Swan is the predominant leitmotif. Clint Mansell composed the rest of the score. His music provides the intensity the movie requires. It is magnificent. Natalie Portman owned her character. Her every expression, every step, every move was a delicate beauty. Portman, along with Tchaikovsky’s opera, Mansell’s score and Aronofsky’s mise-en-scène, sucked me into Black Swan and refused to let me go.  They made me feel something I hadn’t felt for a while in the movies. They convinced me it was real. I found myself worried about Nina and rooting for her. Silly me, I was even concerned about the company’s future, worried about whether or not they would go bankrupt. Interesting…

Back in the Summer, Inception astonished me as much as Black Swan did five hours ago. But it was too extravagant to be real. It’s verisimilitude was none. Black Swan, on the other hand, felt true, visceral. It is a strong contender for some Academy Awards, at least nominations, with Portman definitely receiving hers.

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