Director : Darren Aronofsky
Writers : Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin (screenplay), Andres Heinz (story)
With: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis
This is a jaw-dropping beautiful film, which you will probably include either in your “masterpiece list” or in your “bore list”, depending on what type of movie-person you are. Thanks to "Black Swan", Natalie Portman delivers one of the best (if not the best) performances of the year as Nina Sayers, a perfectionist ballerina and her descent into madness after seeing her dream come true.
The movie starts with a nightmare and continues on an accelerating nightmare-ish route after Nina is selected as the lead ballerina in a modernist production of Tchaikovsky's classical "
". The original ballet tells the story of Princess Odette who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer. A white swan during the day, the spell allows her to regain her human form at night, and she can only be set free by the vow of eternal love of a man who must remain faithful to her. But when she finally finds that love, the sorcerer uses his daughter Odile (played by the same ballerina) to trick the prince into being unfaithful, thus dooming Odette to remain a swan forever; and she commits suicide by drowning herself in the lake. Swan Lake
As the Swan Queen, Nina must play the parts of both Odette and Odile – the White Swan and the Black Swan, materializing with her dance the age old conflict between good and evil. Odette is no problem for her. Sweet, innocent and self-sacrificing, Nina is very much like the White Swan herself. But Odile’s part turns out to be a real challenge. Although she can technically carry the Black Swan to perfection, Nina cannot embody the character’s essence: seductive, captivating, erotic, diabolic. And then the beautiful Lily (played by Mila Kunis) comes into play, a new ballerina who is everything that Nina isn’t : flirtatious, alluring, a naturally sexual being. Chosen as a back-up for the Black Swan, Lily represents both a threat and a source of fascination for Nina, whose sense of reality deteriorates as the movie progresses. Trying to become the Black Swan, she loses herself in the role and loses her sanity in the process.
Charged with horror elements, the movie manages to deliver hauntingly disturbing visuals as the plot unfolds into more and more sinister dimensions, but never allowing the horror to overwhelm the drama. The wonderful fluidity of the camera movement, as well as the color pallets which remain vivid in spite of well serving the “black versus white” theme, make it impossible to turn your eyes away. And while Darren Aronofsky’s style never fails to put its definite print on a movie ("Requiem for a Dream", "The Fountain", "The Wrestler"), this may as well be “the most Aronofsky” film yet.
Mila Kunis is an explosion of energy and sensuality as Lily. Vincent Cassel is brilliant as the fiery, demanding, often sleazy ballet director. Winona Ryder, with the little screen-time she had, was spectacular as the has-been prima ballerina gone mental. Barbara Hershey was at times skin-crawling creepy playing Nina’s mother, a failed ballerina herself who's now living her life through her oppressed daughter. But to say that Natalie Portman is the monopolizing star of the film would be a gross understatement. She is absolutely phenomenal, from the fragile, sweet, insecure little Nina, to her corrupted, promiscuous, unscrupulous alter ego, she is giving herself body and soul to this role, in a performance that MUST grant her an Oscar, or the world shall crumble and fall. “I was perfect...” is her very last line in the film, and I felt like it was the first time I could exhale since the movie started.
Having said that, I'm not sure if I should recommend this movie or not. You will either be enraptured by it, or you won’t last 20 minutes. If were you, I’d take my chances.
My overall rating : 8.5 / 10
Rating per categories, 10 being maximum of points and 1 being minimum :
Directing : 8.5
Script : 8
Plot and Storyline : 8
Cinematography and visuals: 8.5
Characters and acting : 9.5