Genre: Psychological thriller
Director/s: Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 108 mins
Budget: $13 million
Released: 17 December 2010 (USA)
A ballet dancer wins the lead in “Swan Lake” and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan – Princess Odette – but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan – imdb
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a young, talented ballet dancer who constantly strives for perfection and in doing so, she is always pushing herself harder and harder in order to reach that elusive level of flawlessness she so craves even at the expense of her own well-being but having worked for the same ballet company for a number of years she seems to be toiling needlessly as her career has not earned her the recognition she rightly deserves.
After director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to do a reworked rendition of Swan Lake, Nina gets her chance at stardom as she is cast in the lead as the delicate White Swan, a role she is perfect for except that she is required to portray the Black Swan as well – the dark and sensual doppelganger. As Nina struggles to embody the role of the Black Swan, a new challenge in the form of Lily (Mila Kunis) emerges, as she is the very embodiment of the darker twin.
To compound matters further, Nina lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who exerts a stifling hold over her, controlling her every move and treating her like a child. The mother’s failure as a former ballerina becomes apparent as she selfishly pushes and manipulates her daughter in an effort to reclaim a sense of her own lost career and in doing so, project herself into her daughter. However, Erica’s efforts are inevitably thwarted as Nina eventually befriends Lily, a reckless ‘free-spirit’ who introduces Nina to a world of drugs and sexual encounters that invariably changes Nina, so much so that she is able to stand up to her mother and portray the Black Swan thanks to her newly acquired sensibilities.
…the cinematography and acting are brilliant in Black Swan and Natalie Portman portrays her character with substance and realism…
Though it is quite apparent that Lily is merely the trigger that sets Nina off as Nina seems to possess some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder in the form of scratching herself open as well as a more serious psychological sickness, possibly schizophrenia as she constantly sees visions of herself bleeding, skin peeling or people’s faces becoming her own, a condition brought on possibly by her mother due to social isolation or years of mental abuse.
The cinematography and acting are brilliant in Black Swan and Natalie Portman portrays her character with substance and realism – as a tortured soul constantly striving for the unattainable, but know that Black Swan isn’t an easy-going film as it is visually disturbing at times and overall the tone of the film is pensive and melancholic. As Black Swan is a departure from what I’m accustomed to watching, I did find the film to be lacking in pace and sometimes even boring. Save for the odd twist or two, I feel that Black Swan fails at the level of ‘psychological thriller’ but rather excels at being a drama (and much drama there is).
In conclusion, Black Swan is a well-directed, brilliantly choreographed film, well-deserving of your attention if you are attracted to tragedy and pensive themes, though if you like your films to be light-hearted or easy-going it would be best to avoid this one. As I said previously, while I feel that Black Swan isn’t much of a psychological thriller (there wasn’t enough mind-fuckery in the film that could really warrant it to fall into the psyche-thriller category) it is however a brilliant drama.