Black Swan wasn’t on my must see list. In fact after reading a vague synopsis that described it as young ballerina catches the eye of prestigious Director with a penchant for seducing his young protégées, it was all I could do to stop myself rolling my eyes and groaning. But it was something that my wife wanted to see, so see it I would!
As you can probably guess, I wasn’t expecting much from Black Swan, but it started out worse than even I could have imagined. I was sitting on the couch wondering what on earth Director Darren Aronofsky was thinking. Framing seemingly every-shot with a closely cropped image of the main person, or following directly behind them with an over the top Cloverfield hand held camera feel was making me uncomfortable to say the least, nauseated even. It was like having some one up in your face constantly.
But then something clicked and I realised that it was probably a deliberate ply by Aronofsky to make the viewer uncomfortable because as it turns out, Black Swan is no twisted romantic drama, rather it is a dark tale of abuse.
Natalie Portman crafts the role of Nina Sayers with ease, a 20 something ballerina who has been training her entire life and who dreams only of catching Director Thomas Leroy’s eye so she can be cast in prestigious role, a role that lives up to her talents.
Doesn’t sound like a story of abuse you say, well you haven’t met Nina’s mother, a woman driven to live her failed life through the impending stardom of her daughter. A twisted and bitter woman who pushes Nina constantly, berating her one second and rewarding her with over the top gifts the next. It is a truly disturbingly abusive relationship.
But then the whole concept of ballet is an exercise in abuse – physical abuse, bending and breaking your body to enable it to perform. And then there’s the back stabbing and politics of being a ballerina. It’s a nasty world that Aronofsky is inviting us into.
Fortunately the in-your-face close cropping seems to subside as the story progresses and Aronofsky shows his brilliance with his careful and subtle use of auditory and visual clues. These are used with such perfection as Aronofsky slowly draws back the curtain on what ends up being a taught thriller that has elements of Alexandre Aja’s Mirrors.
The combination of Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey playing off each other is brilliant. Portman who I really didn’t think much of prior to Black Swan seduces you with her innocence and loneliness, whilst Kunis plays a ballerina who is polar opposites to Portman’s Nina and ends up being one of the defining relationships, along with Nina’s mother and Thomas Leroy, who each play a three way tug of war over Nina’s destiny.
Portman really goes the extra mile and embraces her character with an intensity that grows at an alarming rate as the film races towards it’s climax, drawing the viewer into the increasingly complex web of Nina’s life as she embraces the roles of both the black and white swan.
It the end you’ll be left speechless as you try and learn how to breath again – such is the effect of Aronofsky’s magnificent look at the dark side of our human souls.
Black Swan is without a doubt one of the best DVDs you will see this year.
Reviewed by: Jonathan