Black Swan is a psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman as Nina, a perfectionist ballerina who is cast as the Swan Queen in her company’s performance of Swan Lake. Throughout the film, Nina pushes herself to overcome every obstacle that appears to be standing in the way of her and her dream performance: a new free-spirit dancer threatening her role, a director pushing her to let loose, an overbearing stage mom, an accusatory forced-to-retire veteran ballerina, and what appears to be her own unraveling. Black Swan is exactly what a thriller of this nature should be, especially due to Natalie Portman’s performance and director Darren Aronofsky’s style.
Portman is getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her role of Nina, and she is deserving of a nomination acknowledging her performance. Thanks to her second-guessing attitude and innocence, Nina is immediately recognizable as the embodiment of the “virgin White Swan” that the director describes he is casting. But, the question is whether she can find that place inside of her and let go enough to play the Black Swan. As one would expect, sexuality plays an important role in this “transformation.” And the film isn’t afraid to really go there, so to speak. It is pretty common knowledge that Mila Kunis (who plays Nina’s rival, or the incarnation of the Black Swan, Lily) and Portman have a sex scene in the film. And it’s not subtle. In fact, some of Black Swan’s hardest to watch scenes are actually of that nature, because it can be excruciatingly uncomfortable to see Nina transform from such innocence (as Mila Kunis’s dad will tell you). But that is the reason that Portman will likely get an Academy Award nod for this role – she can convincingly go through Nina’s bizarre journey.
Black Swan could be any old thriller, but Aronofsky makes it hard to turn away. His use of color, or lack thereof, obviously is crucial to a film that is intricately drawing parallels between its characters and the characters of the ballet (particularly the Black Swan and the White Swan). Fortunately, rather than coming across as formulaic, Aronofsky’s use of blacks, whites, and grays fit seamlessly with the characters and their surroundings. Look out especially for Nina’s apartment building and its eerie starch white walls and dark black doors. The same goes for the use of mirrors; something that could have been merely a cliché symbol for Nina’s inner struggle is instead a staple. What would a dance studio be without mirrors?
Aronofsky also knows exactly the pace that he wants the film to have; he choreographs the action, seamlessly fitting the unnatural events with the classical music and ballet theme. By incorporating his own symbols through colors, mirrors, and music, the directing itself makes Black Swan visually stimulating. The film is definitely worth seeing, especially to marvel at Portman’s acting and Aronofsky’s direction.
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