Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and Darren Aronofsky for his latest film, Black Swan decides to toy around with the common ambition we all strive for. However, the way Aronofsky messes with his protagonists and their singular pursuits in each film is somewhat of a mind muddle.
In Black Swan, Aronofsky has directed a clever script that is more of a character study into the deep dark abyss of self-esteem and a subdued sexuality from within, aiming for the notion of perfection. The actors portray their characters to their absolute best through physical expression and an honest emotion that leaves the watcher feeling somewhat of an empathy and interest into the depths of the protagonist.
This isn’t your typical ballet film. This is a film where you need to let go and dive into the mindset of a ballet dancer; a very disturbed and troubled one. The way Vincent Cassel’s libidinous character, Thomas Leroy, the ballet company’s director pulls Natalie Portman’s naive and demure Nina Sayers aside for a pep talk (“Perfection is not just about control. It is about letting go”) – it isn’t just for her. It’s for the well being of the audience; a type of preparation into the dark descent of a character who needs to let loose and discover herself through her own psyche.
Black Swan follows Nina (Portman), a quiet perfectionist and all around good girl who lives with her domineering mother (Barbara Hershey) who pampers and treats her almost like a child. Even so, Nina is dedicated to her craft and keeps distractions like friends, men, alcohol and drugs at bay all for the benefit of her excelling further in ballet and becoming a great dancer.
When auditions roll in for Tchaikovsky's “Swan Lake”, Nina dances the White Swan but has doubts about her ability to dance the Black Swan as well. Her director, Thomas (Cassel) believes she lacks the unabashed maturity and sexuality needed for the seductive task of becoming the evil swan but decides after some thought, she will best suit the role of Swan Queen. Nina grows worrisome as the company welcomes Lily (Mila Kunis), a free-spirited dancer who challenges the reserved dancer’s comfort zone and ultimately, her psyche.
If there’s one thing that’s most certain about this film is that Natalie Portman delivers one of the best performances in her young career. No surprise as the awards season kicks in, that she’s now become a golden darling, garnering nominations left and right; Oscar would be a fool not to follow suit and pursue her. Portman plays Nina to a grind; graceful, sweet and quiet and Aronofsky directs the starlet with a raw fascination while trying to discern the protagonist’s reality from her own frenzied imagination.
The film is creepy, dark and an interesting psychological thriller and at times, funny but it isn’t for the faint that are not open to the subject of a twisted psychosis and a shady metamorphosis. The lines of fact and fiction begin to blur and her hallucinations become your own as you sit at the edge of your seat, fully engaged in the demise of the mind.
The mind is a very intricate thing and one that will never fully be understood. Within the mind of Nina Sayers, the young dancer dances through her own mental ballet, a push and pull of her own self-control and inhibitions. It is a film with greatly formed characters, a solid script full of emotion and profundity accented with stunning visual effects. Black Swan is a film that is worth watching and catching a glimpse into one’s disturbed mind.
Stars: * * * * ½ of 5
Black Swan is now in theatres
Production: Fox Searchlight
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 108 minutes
Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.