Black Swan Review

2 12 2010

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film is a throwback to the haunting style of REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and he succeeds in bringing the darkness to the forefront.

From left: Director of Photography Matthew Libatique and Director Darren Aronofsky on the set of BLACK SWAN. Photo Credit: Niko

Over the years we’ve seen Darren Aronofsky and the only DP he’s ever used Matthew Libatique bring to life flawed lead characters that are battling with physical and emotional demons.  The aspect of color, specifically black to white ratio, has been apparent since PI and showcases the inner struggles of his lead characters.   In PI we met a genius mathematician, Max Cohen, dealing with the struggles of figuring out the impossible.  In REQUIEM we meet a group of drug addicts battling through their addictions.  In THE FOUNTAIN we had our first foray into the questions of existence through the lost love of Tomas/Tommy/Tom Creo (all played by Hugh Jackman).  In THE WRESTLER we have the sad demise of Randy and how one moment of glory is all that he has left.  In BLACK SWAN we are once again introduced to a flawed lead character in the fragile Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman.

Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN; Photo by Niko Tavernise

The real magic though of the film is how in depth the film goes to show us the world of Ballet, the tough athletic world that encompasses Ballet.  Just as Darren showed us the world of Hasidic cabalistic sect in PI, the drug addict in REQUIEM, the medical side of animal testing in THE FOUNTAIN, and the tough world of wrestling in the WRESTLER, we are fully transported into the hyper-competitive world of Ballet dancing.   But like in his previous films the real attraction is the depths of the internal struggles of our lead character.  We witnessed Max go insane with the new found knowledge, We see Sara go insane with her drug addiction, we see Tommy lose his whole world trying to search for his lost love, we see Randy literally die for his love of wrestling, and now we see Nina Sayers complete fall from the pinnacle of Ballet (literally!!).

Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN; Photo by Niko Tavernise

Nina is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance.  When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice.

L-R: Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in BLACK SWAN; Photo by Niko Tavernise

Nina not only is struggling with proving her self to the over-demanding Thomas, but her real fears come about because of the newest addition to the ballet company, Lily (Mila Kunis).

L-R: Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN; Photo by Niko Tavernise

Lily and Nina’s obvious physical similarities only highlight the fears Nina has about Lily’s abilities as a ballerina.  A quick comment about the sequence that will have you all discussing just how hot Mila and Natalie are.  They do share an extremely intimate scene that is amazingly shot and easily one of the most erotic scenes shot since THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS.  Its worth the price of admission!

Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN; Photo by Niko Tavernise

On top of all this Nina’s mental state of being is constantly in question.  We see her at the highest of highs and also the lowest of lows.  We see her breakdown throughout the film and yet are unsure of what exactly is happening.  The film does a masterful job of confusing you into thinking certain things are reality while others are not, and in the end you’re left questioning those assumptions.  You leave the film wondering what exactly did we see that was real/fake from Nina.   And simply put, we see her turn from the angelic white swan into the demonic black swan.

Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN; Photo by Niko Tavernise

This transformation is both haunting and unpredictable.  Everyone questions her ability to play the Black Swan and thus her final transformation is all the more amazing.  Another incredible showcase of a flawed character battling their most internal demons and allowing those demons to manipulate the final outcome.

Its really simple folks, Darren’s latest film is worthy his first major recognition from the Oscars and the same for Mrs. Portman and DP Libatique.  I personally didn’t think THE WRESTLER was Aronofsky’s best work, but I can say that Black Swan is the closest we’ve seen of Darren recapturing the amazing qualities in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, his most complete story to date.

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