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Nina (Portman) is a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Hershey) who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side - a recklessness that threatens to destroy her. Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Darren Aronofsky proves once again that he is an absolute genius in the modern world of cinema and he can work in any genre and make it look beautiful, real, visceral, and always keeping with his specific visual style, proving himself to be an absolute auteur. Black Swan is Aronofsky's fifth feature film, and it shows how his directing ability is somehow getting better. The movie is about a ballet dancer, Nina (Natalie Portman), who is dealing with the pressures of playing The Swan Queen in her companies production of Swan Lake. The pressures brought about by this demanding role cause her to begin to slowly crack under pressure, especially when she has to worry about a rival dancer possibly taking her spot. My synopsis doesn't do the film any justice though, and the result of this story is a disturbing and breath taking thriller that combines beauty with visceral intensity, and keeps you on the edge of your seat and your eyes glued to the screen.
Aronofsky's directing style is incredibly sophisticated and mature in this film. It is grand and beautiful. The ballet scenes are all very delicate and soft, yet there's always an underlying tension. This tension eventually breaks through as the film at times switches to a much darker and more disturbing mood. We are lulled into a false sense of security in many aspects of the film, as it builds and builds to the shocking and chilling climax. The movie flows so beautifully and it delicately weaves in and out of its multitude of moods that keeps us watching and waiting, as the film only grows darker and darker. As the moods of the film change, the style does as well in a very minuscule range, but it is always fitting wherever the film moves. Black Swan is sensual, seductive, lustful, and intense, and Aronofsky's direction captures it all perfectly.
With a style as complex and masterful as Aronofsky's, it is hard for any aspect of the film to look bad, but this wasn't a problem because I felt that every aspect of this film was nearly flawless. One such aspect was the brilliant acting from the small yet very important cast that really helped a movie that needed no help at all. Natalie Portman as Nina was incredible. Her transformation through the movie is disturbing and very intense, and Portman handles it incredibly well. She plays a very flawed character, making the role even tougher. Nina is not the greatest ballet dancer in the world by any stretch of the imagination. She has all the technique and is in fact a master at it, yet it is her emotion that she has the problem with. Portman almost had to act her character poorly to capture the multiple layers correctly. The unfitting facial expressions and awkward movements are part of the character of Nina, and Portman somehow makes it all work to a great advantage that makes the film even more fascinating.
The rest of the cast is incredible as well. Mila Kunis takes on a much more serious and more complex role than she is used to. Her character has very many layers, and doesn't fit into one specific archetype, mainly for reasons that would spoil the movie. Vincent Cassel is the sleazy and inappropriate director of this ballet production. He is the driving force behind much of the tragedy of the film, and he is a character you love to hate. Then perhaps one of the most disturbing characters is Barbara Hershey as Erica, Nina's mother. Erica lives vicariously through her daughter and is constantly pushing her to better while also sheltering her from the world and everything that is out there past ballet. She is the reason for Nina's rigid structure in her life that is a constant pressure to do better. The introduction of Erica's true motivation is one of the most stunning and tragic elements of the movie. We are shown only a facade of the mother at the beginning of the film, being tricked into believing that Nina and her mother live a happy and beautiful life together as a loving mother and daughter. But further down the road as the film grows darker we realize just how skewed and disturbed their relationship is. It is a great bit of character development that has a very important role in the films overall progression.
If I could use one word to describe Black Swan it would be seductive. The movie is ripe with sexual tension, and it drags you in whether you want to be or not. It grabs ahold of your attention, as well as your emotions. The film is so beautiful, yet so tense and so powerful. It fascinates and hypnotizes, and you want nothing more than to know what is going to happen to these people in this disturbed story. It is a film that wraps itself around your brain, rendering you speechless for its entire length. There is just something so unique and so incredible about this film that it almost felt awkward stepping back into reality when it was all over. Black Swan is a masterpiece, and definitely one of the best of 2010.
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