Black Swan (2010) Poster

(2010)

User Reviews

Review this title
915 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
A beautiful and nightmarish masterpiece
DonFishies19 September 2010
There are not enough words in the English language to describe the praise Darren Aronofsky deserves for Black Swan. It was one of the most talked about and sought after films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (which I managed to snag a ticket for), and for good reason – it is a masterpiece that is just as much beautiful as it is nightmarish.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has toiled for years within a New York ballet company, always pushing herself. The company has fallen under hard times, and director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) makes the swift decision to put on a new rendition of the classic Swan Lake. With the company's go-to lead pushed into retirement, Nina is quickly selected to be the lead in the new ballet. With competition arriving in the form of new dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), and the demanding desire for perfection from both Thomas and her overbearing mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), Nina begins a journey into dark uncharted territory.

Black Swan is an enthralling and visceral experience from beginning to end. Aronofsky has used what he has learned from making the raw and unflinching The Wrestler and the cerebral horror and incredibly disturbing Requiem for a Dream, and has crafted a film that you will simply not be able to take your eyes off of. He builds up rather slow, but right after that first moment of off-the-rails insanity, he delivers one hell of an incredible piece of cinema. One that is not easily able to be classified to any one genre.

While you may have read suggestions that Black Swan and The Wrestler are two halves of the same film, make no mistake at looking at it any further beyond the comparison of being about two people toiling within two very different forms of art. Black Swan is never a low budget character piece. It is a film that navigates between being thrilling and horrific at the same time. While the horror elements start to take more prominence in the second half (specifically the rather squeamish elements of body horror, done in a way that would make David Cronenberg proud), the film never lets one completely overtake the other. It manages to maintain this sense of dread, darkness and rather graphic wound/injury infliction throughout.

The visuals and editing are the drive of what helps make the film so well done. Contrasting blacks and whites so frequently give the obvious hints of good and evil, innocence and darkness. But Aronofsky likes to throw in hints of ambiguity at every turn, changing the colours for each character depending on the scene, and depending on what they may or may not be doing. Even the scenery and set design is in plain black and whites, always making the audience guess the true motivations and intentions of both character and creator. Adding in the element of reflection, both in others and the self (mostly through mirrors), only helps compound these feelings of ambiguity and confusion. It will consistently keep audiences thinking about what is being shown and what is actually going on. The subtle visual effects and astoundingly well done score only help add to the greatness.

Aronofsky also deserves recognition for the film's lean running time. When so many films are often far too long and dragged out, this film maintains a sense of momentum that never gets lost at any point. The film's slow points are never dragged out, merely well padded out for the shift from Nina being innocent to adrenaline soaked horror as she descends into the realm of darkness. Rather gracefully, Aronofsky manages to balance the goal of Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin's script to blend Nina's tale with the story of Swan Lake itself, and never loses sight or direction at any instance. This is bravado style filmmaking at its finest, and more than suggests that the brilliant direction in Requiem for a Dream was not a fluke.

Portman, who has shown her acting merits before in the likes of Closer, delivers a startlingly intense and beautiful performance as Nina. At once you can see the innocent, sexually repressed little girl who just wants to please her mother, and the sexually depraved fallen angel, inching closer towards independence and adulthood. She is very clearly not "well" in the beginning of the film, and as the film progresses, you can practically chart her 180-degree reversal in character. She is downright terrifying in many instances, and more than proves her worth as an actress. When she finally dons makeup late in the film, her transformation from a once promising talent to a full blown powerhouse talent becomes simply marvelous to watch.

The supporting cast only helps to further complement Portman's extraordinary performance. Cassel is amazing as always as the slimy and twisted Thomas. We never really get more than hints at his true intentions, but Cassel makes every moment on-screen simply amazing. Kunis delivers a level of depth I never thought was possible for her. She commands the screen with every new scene, and this performance will easily act as a starmaking role for her. Hershey is even better; practically stealing the screen away from Portman's magnetizing performance. She makes Erica into that monster of a character everyone loves to hate, and brings a level of intensity to every mere moment she appears in. If anyone is even nearly close to equaling Portman's performance, it would be her. Despite only appearing for a few minutes, Winona Ryder is amazing in her role as the former lead ballerina Beth. I just wish she could have chewed up more scenery.

Black Swan is an incredible film from beginning to end, and will not easily leave you. It is a masterpiece of unheralded success, and is easily the best film I saw at TIFF. Watch out for it at Oscar time – it just may steal the show.

10/10.
963 out of 1,322 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Swan Dive into Darkness
colinrgeorge18 October 2010
Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" makes ballet cool—and if that isn't a Herculean feat in itself, I don't know what is. It also happens to be one of the best films of the year, featuring one of the best performances of the year. Natalie Portman will be nominated for her devastating portrayal of petite perfectionist Nina the ballerina or I'll pull a Werner Herzog and eat my shoe.

"Black Swan" is cut from the same cloth as Aronofsky's 2008 film "The Wrestler," if at the opposite end. Interestingly, before either project was realized, the director was reportedly mulling a drama about the relationship between a professional wrestler and a ballerina. Somewhere along the way, however, that concept was split down the middle—and thank God. "Black Swan" is brilliant, but it wouldn't necessarily play well with others.

Like its predecessor, the film examines a physically demanding and widely unappreciated art, and though thematically similar, the two complement each other via mutually exclusive cinematic vernaculars. "The Wrestler" is ultimately a safer film. Its emotional experience is directly conveyed via plot and dialogue. What Aronofsky attempts with "Black Swan" is riskier: he plays genre Frankenstein, taking established themes and transplanting them into that which feels initially least appropriate—horror.

Yet despite certain unmistakable cues, I'd hesitate to call "Black Swan" a horror film. Visually, maybe, but John Carpenter insists "The Thing" is a Western, and likewise there is more to "Black Swan" than is aesthetically obvious. It probably best fits the psychological thriller mold, but as Aronofsky suggests through his manipulation of mirrors, it is not a film that ever casts a clear reflection. For me, that dichotomy is what makes it so fascinating and rewarding.

"Black Swan" strikes an immediate haunting note that seems to grow louder with reverberation rather than quieter. In the first half, the director lays track work; in the second, he runs right off it. Nina begins her journey receiving the coveted role of the Swan Queen in a modernist production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake." Her practiced technique makes her ideal for the role of the goodly White Swan, but her lascivious director (Vincent Cassel) has reservations about her ability to portray her evil twin, the titular Black Swan—a character that embodies impulse and lust. Nina's process of unlearning takes her to increasingly dark, surreal depths.

The final act of the film comprises the most riveting 40 minutes I've seen on screen all year, though "Black Swan" is never the mindf**k some have improperly labeled it. Aronofsky deliberately builds atmosphere and anticipation toward a Kubrickian climax that is at once obvious and stunning. Tchaikovsky's score falls like an aerial assault, and that inherent theatricality collides with Aronofsky's narrative as they come to a dual boil.

Perhaps best of all, however, is that for all the audacity on display, the director knows when to dial it back as well. The casting of Mila Kunis ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "That 70's Show") was idyllic. She plays a comic relief of sorts, with a comely, down-to-earth veneer but viperous eyes. Her performance is fantastically calculated—she provides derisive, but much needed perspective on Nina's deteriorating sense of reality.

"Black Swan" is a wholly effective work born from the shadowy underside of the mind, anchored by a career-defining turn by Portman. It is a quick, impulsive piece, but it explains artistic devotion and the consuming nature of obsession as well or better than any film I've ever seen. In hindsight, it feels more characteristic of the filmmaker responsible for "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream" than "The Wrestler," though the parallels between it and "Black Swan" run deep.

They may be cut from the same cloth, but the difference between the two is as stark as black and white. Hail Aronofsky, the Swan King.
551 out of 774 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
I can't believe the work that Natalie Portman put into this film and it's easy to see why she received the Oscar.
MartinHafer12 March 2011
By now, Natalie Portman has already won the Oscar for Best Actress for this film. And, because my oldest daughter adored this film and strongly recommended I see it (WITHOUT her due to the content of the film!), I decide to see it and am glad that I did. Natalie Portman's commitment to this film is incredible. Seeing the weight that she lost, the ballet moves she worked on and the wonderful acting, it's very obvious why she got the award.

As for the film itself, I have got a STRONG warning! Before you consider watching the film think twice. The film is at times VERY adult--very adult. Even though there is no nudity per se, there sure is a lot of very graphic content and simulated sex--such that I could understand my daughter not wanting to see this movie with her dad!! Because there are so many other reviews at this point, I'll wrap it up quickly by saying that the film has a wonderful script for two main reasons. First, it's highly original--and I love originality. Second, from a psychological point of view, there are many possible interpretations and it's a great portrait of madness. At the very least, the leading lady is suffering from a SEVERE anxiety disorder as well as schizophrenia--a very, very bad combination to say the least! But I also love how, because the film is often shown from her point of view, you never are sure what is real and what is not--even when the film concludes. You are left wondering exactly what happened and what didn't--and that ambiguity might annoy some, but I appreciated this--mostly because most films explain EVERYTHING and assume the audience is too dumb to try to sort it out for themselves. An intelligently written, directed and brilliantly acted film. Exceptional.
36 out of 45 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"Perfect"
dpoll3905 December 2010
I had the opportunity to see Black Swan in one of the 18 theaters that it opened up on this weekend, although I generally do not do so, I was compelled to write a review of the film.

From top to bottom, this film is at the height of what it means to be true art in cinema. The various elements of the film, the mise-en-scene, was so incredibly structured by filmmaker Darren Aronofsky that one need only sit back and admire at the fluidity of his camera movement, or the marvelous hue of colors amidst a film which has it's color scheme largely dedicated to the symbolism of black and white.

The performances where spot on, Vincent Cassel was terrific as the suspicious teacher, whose brilliance and lust for the dancers in his show are both quite reputable, one often beating out the other. And Mila Kunis truly shines in this one, bringing out a side of her many probably didn't know was possible. She is absolutely beautiful and aptly portrays the black contradiction to Natalie Portmans white, a terrific contrast of good and evil. Kunis, however, as many may assume, is not meant to be there to spark a general conflict of good vs evil, but to emphasize the side of Portman that we have not yet seen. A side that will drive her to the brink of insanity to obtain.

And therein lies the true theme of the film, obsession and physical strain over all else. Much like "The Wrestler" we have the main character dedicated to an unappreciated form of physical art. Here, it is Portman's obsession with becoming the lead of the ballet Swan Lake which drives her into madness. You enter her mind as her teacher pushes her to become perfect, pushing her to let go of her fragile White Swan and become the loose and destructive Black Swan. As you follow her through the stages of her audition leading towards a booming finale she becomes less and less aware of what around her is distortion and what is reality. As she loses grip, Aronofsky's ability to depict psychological deterioration shines through.

And make no mistake, this film belongs to Aronofsky and Portman. As stated, Aronofsky captures everything beautifully in frame, his movement of the camera is almost as fluent and beautiful as the very dancers on the screen. His use of behind the head vantage shots has been a bit of a trademark of his, allowing as to see what the character is. And his use of lighting is nothing short of extraordinary. But now comes the true star: Natalie Portman. She blew me away, from start to finish, she displayed her transformation for the sweet girl to the physically and psychologically obsessed, all the way through attempting to embody the white and black swan when necessary, literally trying to become them in her mind, driving her towards insanity in the pursuit of perfection. Words cannot describe Portman's performance here, to say it is Oscar worthy would be a vast understatement, as the depth of her character goes so deep it would nearly be worthy of playing two separate roles. So fragile at time that you fear for her life, and so corrupted at others that you hate her. Acting at it's finest, Portman deserves an Oscar.

All things considered the film is nearly perfect, one of the best dramas I've ever seen, and one that is as iconic and intense as it is horrifying at times. Just to mention a few other things, Winona Ryder, in the small amount of screen time she had, was spectacular, and truly terrifying during particular scenes. And as always, when Aronofsky and Clint Mansell team up, the score is both epic and eerie, somehow simultaneously. The overcasting score of a distorted and intense version of Swan Lake itself brilliantly compliments the atmosphere throughout the film as these two artist have done before. It could nearly work as a silent film, that's how brilliant it is. If you get the opportunity once this film undoubtedly expands to other theaters see it, it's harrowing and at times difficult to watch, but that combination of beauty and horror makes it impossible to turn away.
660 out of 958 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Painful to Watch
Hitchcoc5 May 2019
This is one of those films best seen only once. It hones in on the fragility of an artist and lays open wounds that are hard to witness. Natalie Portman's character is driven but vulnerable and s set up to succumb to her art. Of course, rivalry is a given, and her rival does everything she can to put the screws to her. Unfortunately, the questioning of her own talent is going to show at some point. I can't say I enjoyed this movie. I realize that obsession is often a strength with artists, but it can also be all consuming. This film is about as dark as it can be but it puts a stranglehold on the viewers.
11 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Remarkable.. Aronofsky holds nothing back
hypercube21 December 2010
Yeah, it must be Darren Aronofsky, at it again. I'm certain I've just seen a brilliant piece of filmmaking, but at the same time I feel like I've just been run over by a convoy of trucks. It will be a while before I calm down enough to sleep, so here I am.

Not everyone is as big as of an Aronofsky's style as I am, but one thing that can't be denied is that he is great at working with actors. Ellen Burstyn, Mickey Rourke, and now Natalie Portman are all very accomplished actors who have found a new level and delivered transcendent performances under Aronofsky. In Black Swan, Natalie Portman's turn as Nina Sayers is, hands down, the best acting performance of 2010-- male or female. If you'll forgive the cliché, I completely forgot Nina was Natalie Portman about five minutes into the movie. As Nina goes deeper and deeper into her role as the Swan Queen, Portman only becomes more and more captivating. The entire cast is excellent, but Portman alone makes this movie a must-see.

Darren Aronofsky is at his boldest heading up Black Swan. His depiction of Nina's struggles as she succumbs to growing pressures from her director, her mother, her rivals, her physical ailments, her personal need for a perfect performance.. it is intense, thrilling, exhausting, and truly gripping throughout. Part of what makes it work is that we are completely along for the ride with Nina. We see what she sees, we experience what she experiences, and sometimes it is truly distressing stuff.

As great as the first 60-70 minutes are, man oh man, nothing can prepare you for the final 30. This finale takes you to places I can't even describe. I dare say it's on par with Requiem for a Dream's devastating third act. It's a masterfully crafted climax that only Aronofsky could deliver.

I am glad Aronofsky is able to do what he does. His brutal and uncompromising style is definitely not for everyone, and it's not box office gold, but for those viewers who connect with what he's doing, the experience is truly something special.
348 out of 517 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Absolutely amazing.
DirkesDiggler28 October 2010
I was lucky enough to see this at the Austin Film Festival and was absolutely blow away.

Aronofsky is, in many ways, like Nick Cave. You know going in that you are going to get something gritty, raw, and real. You know that, even if it's good, it's going to be hard to process. But when he gets a hold of something, really gets a hold of it, you won't be able to look away, no matter how hard it is to watch. He is a singular filmmaker in the regard that he can create something that is both visceral and cerebral at the same time. Others can do this, but few as well. What he does is never hollow, shallow, or empty, it is always dense, deep, and rich with everything that makes film great.

"Black Swan" is no exception. In many ways this is the most Aronofsky of his films. His style is spot on and works exquisitely with the world he is presenting. It's surprising because he normally shows the dirty, gritty, and ugly places, where as everything in this film is clean and polished. But don't let that fool you, he saved the dirt and grit for the characters. It's remarkable that the man who was able to show the sensitive, and vulnerable side of a wrestler is also able to show the brutal and hard side of a ballerina? For starters, this film looks amazing. The production design, specifically the use of black and white in contrast (don't spend time looking for this, it's everywhere and you will miss something if you do) does it's job without feeling invasive. The lighting is brilliant, as is the staging of the dance scenes. I'm still stunned that the same eye that brought the grainy subway bathroom of "Pi" to life is the same eye that brings all this rich and beautiful color so clearly to the screen.

He also does a brilliant job of creating the world that these characters inhabit. This film reminded me of all the terrible parts of my theater days. The backstabbing, the trash talking, and the two faced nature of that world is portrayed with a deft and brilliant touch. There is a constant fear that you are one mistake away from losing not only your part, but your future parts as well. You feel like you are a part of this world, that he pressure of it is part of your world.

The camera work is great, if a little typical of Aronofsky at times (we see the backs of heads quite a bit, it works, but you see it a lot), but it is very affective. The somewhat jittery, close hand-held shots are perfect and pull you deeper into this world than may be comfortable.

Then there are the name performances. Of the name actors you mostly get what you expect. Portman, Cassel, Hershey, and Rider are outstanding. The only real shock, for me anyway, is Mila Kunis. I know her as Jackie from "That 70's Show," and nothing else. She damned near steals the show. That's right, in a move where she shares screen with Natalie Portman, AND Vincent Cassel she is able to not only hold her own, but walk away with some scenes. The interplay between her wild, unrestrained Lilly, and Portman's frightened, tightly wound Nina creates a brilliant external tension to match, and at times overpower, the internal tension that lies at the very core of Nina.

I have been a fan of Aronofsky's work since I saw "Pi" on it's original theatrical run ( I think I was the only person in the theater for that midnight show), and he has yet to disappoint. He has a definite point of view and a thematic core that runs through his work. Thematically, this is in keeping with most of Aronofsky's work. It's about control and the loss of that control. What happens when a perfectionist control freak is in a position where she HAS to let go of that control? What takes over when she does let go? In typical fashion, Aronofsky shows us that sometimes in striving to get what we want, we risk losing a part of us that we may never be able to get back, and don't realize how desperately we need.

Read more from me at www.thefilmthugs.com
441 out of 706 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Beautiful, tragic, haunting and nightmarish
TheLittleSongbird13 April 2011
I personally do not think this movie the best movie of 2010, I did prefer The King's Speech and The Social Network. But overall, Black Swan is a very, very good film.

Albeit one with cracks. While the film succeeds as a character study, with a compelling lead character, there are some occasional logic and originality lapses, not in the script though as the script is very original that still holds the level of intensity in the slower parts, and with exception of Nina and perhaps Lily some of the characters could have done with more depth.

Those flaws aside, I loved it. But I can understand why people mayn't like it, I especially have a good friend who found it ham-fisted and found it left a bad taste in her mouth, it is often very adult and graphic with some sexual content. Anyone expecting Swan Lake are better off finding a video production or buying a ticket to somewhere like the Royal Ballet, this is not Swan Lake but a melodramatic and psychological character study revolving around a ballerina and the production of that particular ballet.

I remember reading that Darcy Bussell(who I respect) criticised the movie for an inaccurate portrayal of ballerinas or somewhat. I am not saying she is wrong, but I think it depends on the ballerina.

Even with any problems the film has, it is beautiful, tragic, haunting and nightmarish not to mention somewhat thought-provoking. The camera work with its contrasting black and whites to create contrasting moods is great, complete with stunning costumes, scenery and sets. The choreography is good and you do feel the sweat that the performers exude when performing, but I would have liked more close-ups of it perhaps.

The music is haunting and melancholic and the snippets of the Tchaikovsky ballet that you hear throughout are a delight to hear, but again it could have been more, and the finale is dark and exhilarating. The acting is mostly very good. Vincent Cassel is appropriately slimy, Barbara Hershey is terrific as the controlling mother and Mila Kunis is surprisingly wonderful in her meatiest role yet. But what made Black Swan are Darren Aranofsky's bravura direction and the mesmerising titular performance of Natalie Portman.

In conclusion, a very good film. 9/10 Bethany Cox
17 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
An epic and nightmarish delight
Samiam33 December 2010
Natalie Portman lives a dream and a nightmare when she gets a chance to dance Swan Lake in Darren Aronofsky's new film

Black Swan is a very bi polarized film. Portman dances as the white swan flawlessly, but her 'brilliant' choreographer has doubts about her as the black swan. She needs to 'live a little' and be less mannered, but the closer she gets to that point, the more the walls start to close in all around her.

Darren Aronofsky, though he comes close to being heavy handed, has delivered a project which is fiery, spectacular and clever. He sells us ballet as something dark and off putting, starting from his decision to reveal what dancing does to peoples bodies. One mistake and you can crack a toe nail under your body weight, but I don't wanna oversell it. To look at Black Swan in another way, it is an operatic horror film, It has incredible style, but uses it not so much to dazzle but to confuse and intimidate. The paradox of Black swan is that it creepiness is kind of seductive, because it draws you in (much like the way vampires are supposedly romantic)

But style is only half the picture (not even). The rest is in the cast, and mostly in Natalie Portman. She is slow to get started, but she grows quickly and the result is arguably her best performance yet. I've never loved her that much. She's always struck me as more of a girl than a woman, but I guess all she needs is to get a little blood on her hands, and you have an award worthy performance. Vincent Cassel, though he gets some questionable lines, is also at his best. I would have almost liked to see more of him, because you get the sense that his role has a bit more room to grow.

Black Swan does quite a bit, but it's not for everyone. Do not go into this expecting to be emotionally enriched. From the beginning, it is staged to be a mind-twirl, delighting in playing tricks on the audience. Some might call it cheating, but that would be the wrong way to look at Black Swan. It's quite epic, and with year coming to an end, I think it's fair to say that it is among the best of 2010.
192 out of 316 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Engaging psychological horror despite not being as "high-brow" as the ballet frame suggests
bob the moo31 January 2011
Esteemed IMDb writer Theo Robertson messaged me the other day about this film and, while I skimmed it for fear of having him influence me in terms of his opinion, I did read that several older people had walked out of this film, seemingly having expected some sort of high-brow film with its roots in ballet. One can understand why because with all the award buzz and the superficial subject matter (ballet) combined with the actress and of course the previous work of the director, this must surely be an intelligent piece to be "appreciated" and "considered". What one wouldn't expect would be a film that, with a bit more gore, could easily be just another trashy horror/thriller that is released on video and has plenty of sex, violence and jump scares to it.

Well, got news for you, this is what Black Swan is – albeit a superior example of the genre. Essentially our lead character struggles to get in touch with her dark side when she wins the lead in Swan Lake, gradually losing touch with reality and/or being hunted by those around her who wish her harm. This manifests itself through some painful scenes of self-harm, imagined doppelgangers, intense sexual discovery, shadowy figures and a domineering mother who keeps her controlling menace under a veil of vulnerability that only falls here or there. It is trashy stuff in a way but it is done very well so that it produces this genre material but does so in a way that feels slightly classy while also engaging more than it would thanks to a brilliant turn by Portman.

And she is brilliant. I understand the mother because of how well Portman plays – this is not a character she has worked on for a few months, this feels like a product of years under the influence of this mother. She is nervous to her core, frustrated by her own inability to be this "thing" that she has spent her life not being – wild, loose, imperfect. Portman nails it and while I don't think it is a brilliant film, her performance is little less than brilliant. In support Hersey is equally as good with less time to do it. The flickers across her face say so much and I was impressed that with so little I was able to understand roughly what had happened in the previous 20 years. Cassel is simplistic but effective in his predatory director turn. Kunis is unbelievably sexual and again she helps the lead role by showing us everything that Nina struggles to find in herself. Ryder is solid in a smaller role. Aronofsky's direction is strong but particularly impressive is the cinematography – the camera flows so well around the scenes (and yet appears in no mirrors). I think he knows he is making a horror movie so, although he embraces the ballet, he doesn't avoid the shock or the build of the horror.

Some have embraced this film as art and a thing of beauty – while others have come away disappointed because that is what they expected it to be but didn't find it. However Black Swan is an effective psychological horror movie that just happens to be set in the world of ballet. As such it is very much a genre movie even if the director etc lift it to feel like more. In particular Portman makes the film – I cannot think I have seen her better and her Oscar (can there be doubt?) will be deserved.
35 out of 51 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The Good and The Bad
jullashanghavi14 September 2010
I was very lucky to snag tickets to see Black Swan at the the Toronto International Film Festival.

THE GOOD: Natalie Portman's acting was perfection - definitely an Oscar worthy performance. Mila Kunis's performance was surprising in a good way, it is clear that she stepped out of her comfort zone. The film's musical score was superb. Of course, much of it was taken from 'Swan Lake', but I loved that they were able to incorporate that music throughout the entire film and not just in the ballet scenes. Of course, it was beautifully shot and the plot was riveting - I was drawn in from beginning to end. The audience saw a new side of ballet/ theatre that is not often shown in popular films - the struggle the performer faces in committing to and perfecting a role. The struggle between 'good' vs. 'evil' was presented in a methodical and intriguing way.

THE BAD: Many parts of this film felt like it belonged in the horror Genre. Some parts definitely made me jump or cringe (which I was not expecting). The film was also an emotional roller-coaster, which was fine at first, but This 'emotional roller-coaster' sort of dragged on to the point that it almost felt like it was too much. I just feel that it could have been tuned down a notch.

Overall, I thought that most of the film was wonderful, and I highly recommend it.
246 out of 416 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Mediocre
igorekh22 February 2011
I really don't understand what so many reviewers saw in this movie. I don't want to overreact and say it is terrible, but there is nothing in it that inspires or makes one think. It is a well made film. The directing is good, the performance by Natalie Portman is very believable. However, the problem with the movie is that Nina - the main character is flat and uninteresting. Right from the beginning of the movie the viewer is lead to believe that Nina is good, but all I saw is a confused and obsessed individual. She does not love anyone, she has no friends, she does not care about anyone... The only bright spot is her dream to become a leading ballerina in a Swan Lake production, however the movie never really explains why this dream is important to her, and for this reason it is hard to see this dream as anything but another of Nina's obsessions. In short, I just didn't find anything in this movie worth watching. And while I can't say I regret watching it, I would not recommend it either.
63 out of 100 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A seductive masterpiece
KnightsofNi114 December 2010
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.
186 out of 325 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Black Swan- Oscar's for Best Film and Natalie Portman?
rbylakx20 November 2010
I will not give away any spoilers so as not to possibly ruin the experience for anyone, but I can say that this movie left me shaking when it was over. What did I just see? I know I was caught up and went for the entire ride from the opening scene till the very end. The reaction of the audience was evident as the end credits came. NO ONE left their seats. They sat and applauded loudly the names as they scrolled up, then upon the very last credit on the screen, they applauded loudly again.

It's a brilliant piece of film making and story telling and acting. "Black Swan", as well as "The King's Speech", will DOMINATE at the 2011 Oscars and Golden Globes and whatever other films awards show there is... AND deservedly so.

I am anxious to see the film again right away with friends, but will actually wait to continue to savor the feeling the initial viewing of the film still illicit in me. It was a thrilling time and I am looking forward to seeing just how successful this film will become and what my friends and family will say.
237 out of 420 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Amazing Natalie Portman performance
SnoopyStyle15 February 2014
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a New York City ballerina living with her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey). The prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) is being replaced for the opening production of Swan Lake. Nina is the favorite, but new dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) is impressive as well. Nina fits the role of the beautiful, fearful, fragile White Swan perfectly, but she can't get the Black Swan role right unlike Lily. She's obsessed with her deteriorating body as her paranoid mind collapses.

This is a great performance from Natalie Portman. There's a sense of chaos and insanity falling down on her. It definitely has the sensibility of director Darren Aronofsky. Although I do wonder where he's going with this movie at times. It has a realism and a horror feel to the movie. Portman's body slowly turns into a horror show is reminiscent of Jeff Goldblum picking apart his body in 'The Fly'. Mila Kunis is playing a pretty interesting mean girl, or is it all in Nina's head. That's the beauty of this movie. It plays not just with Nina's mind, but the audience's mind.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Losing Yourself In The Darkness Of The Part
bkoganbing9 July 2011
First off let no one think that if they see Black Swan from 2010 that earned Natalie Portman a Best Actress Oscar that they are looking at a remake of the Tyrone Power swashbuckling classic. Instead this film which has a setting in a ballet company is an interesting combination of plot themes from A Double Life and All About Eve.

Company choreographer Victor Cassel chooses promising newcomer Natalie Portman to be the lead in his new production of Swan Lake to succeed his long time star Winona Ryder who is not taking her forced retirement easy. Portman has been Ryder's Eve Harrington, but Portman also has an Eve in her life as well, the younger and talented Mila Kunis. A lot of fine roles for women in this film.

Portman is no doubt talented, but she's dealing with a lot of issues of paranoia, a lot of it instilled by her mother Barbara Hershey. She starts losing herself in the dark complexities of the Black Swan as surely as Ronald Colman did with Othello in A Double Life. How it all works out for all the women you have to see Black Swan.

And you'll like what you see. It's hard to miss the elements in those classics that I've cited in Black Swan. But if you're going to borrow, borrow from the best. And since an Oscar came Ronald Colman's way and one of her 10 nominations came Bette Davis's way, Natalie Portman sure had a substantial role that she played beautifully.

The real surprise for most viewers I think will be Mila Kunis who played the vapid Jackie on That Seventies Show. Kunis provided one of the great lines from television in that show when she stated that no one would deter her from her career goal to be Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. She should have gotten some Oscar recognition herself for the Eve Harrington type role she plays here.

Black Swan is the best film about ballet since the Anne Bancroft/Shirley MacLane classic The Turning Point from the Seventies. Try to see this one by all means.
14 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Intellectual-Camp
roastmary-14 December 2010
I had a lot of fun watching the gorgeous Natalie Portman go through her pirouettes. A film that runs the gamut from "The Red Shoes" to "Repulsion" without reaching the heights of those masterpieces it manages to be an original opus from one of the most interesting directors of late. Darren Aronofsky's confidence is overwhelming. I regret I'll be dead and buried by the time Natalie Portman is 50 but I would give anything to see what this wonderful actress will be by that age. Here, she goes through the motions without avoiding any of the enormous difficulties her character requires. Vincent Cassel plays the French choreographer with a touch of Dhiagelev and oodles of sex appeal. Winona Ryder gives the film its campy touches, which makes the whole enterprise much more accessible than it seems at first. I enjoyed it very much even if I was aware of the effort to be seriously intellectual.
48 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Nothing more than a bundle of humiliating clichés
natalik3 March 2011
Yes. This movie is disgracefully awful. Sigh. I've just returned from the cinema and had to write here, because I read so many misleading reviews that referred to this movie as a "masterpiece". Perhaps a masterpiece of emptiness. It has nothing in it, no matter where you try to look from, no matter how many fingers will be shoved in unbecoming places. Such an amateur work is suitable for a 1st year student who still hasn't been cured yet of superficial story patterns. *Everything* in this movie, with no single exception, is screaming of banality. The characters, their characteristics, their actions, the turn of events. It's all one big yawn, following childish formulas so blindly.

Do yourselves a favor and don't go to see it..

Better go watch "The Piano Teacher", the striking French movie which succeeds in doing what this movie can only dream of... you see, I'm not against some disturbance and provocation, but even that can be brought to an artistic level or, as we see in "Black Swan", be thrown everywhere without any depth to back it up...
56 out of 99 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
great disappointment!
gropau9 January 2011
Now after watching the film, i can't explain the positive feed-back, what's happening?! :( The movie is sadistic, confusing, boring, not convincing. The atmosphere was oppressive, i couldn't wait for it to end. The scenes do not justify Nina's exaggerated drama, her overwhelming sadness goes to far when nothing really happens. In fact, the story has no substance, no credibility. As for the good things, are there any? Portman's performance was not bad, i think, though she doesn't have an expressive face. A film that is NOT worth seeing! Don't be cheated by the good reviews. Really, how can they be so far from the truth?!
196 out of 379 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Black swan song
Cujo10822 December 2010
Darren Aronofsky is a filmmaker who, over the course of five films, has thoroughly explored the various ways in which people can be consumed when their passions become self-destructive obsessions. It seems to be a bit of an obsession in and of itself for Aronofsky, and frankly, I've been with him every step of the way. The best cinema is the kind that makes you feel something, which Aronofsky's work does in spades. Taking up residence in the darkest recesses of the human psyche is no picnic.

Nina Sayers has toiled for years and years in Thomas Leroy's New York ballet company. Having fallen on hard times, Leroy exiles his lead dancer and hopes that a fresh face in the company's upcoming version of "Swan Lake" will renew interest and revenue. Nina believes that she has what it takes to tackle the role of Swan Queen, and while Thomas chooses her for the part, he is adamant about her being able to nail both the pure innocence of the White Swan and the dark, sultry essence of the Black Swan. He doesn't feel that she is yet capable of pulling off the latter, but he suspects that she has the ability bottled up inside. Nina, ever the perfectionist, just needs to let herself go and perhaps explore her sexuality. Unfortunately, she's had to deal with an overbearing mother who has sheltered her to the point of psychological damage. Experiencing what she needs to in order to embody the Black Swan, combined with the pressure of the role and the paranoia over new girl, Lily, possibly being after her spot, may just push Nina over the edge.

"Black Swan" has been cited as a companion piece to "The Wrestler", and in many ways, it is. They even share similar instances of a pseudo-documentary shooting style. However, whereas the latter utilized such a style to create a heightened sense of realism, "Black Swan" takes the approach and creates a claustrophobic hell akin to something like Polanski's "The Tenant". It's a disorienting portrait of the madness that infects many who possess the desire to create art. Nina's sanity is in question early on, and from there, we are kept on our toes in relation to what is hallucinated and what is real. Speaking of being kept on one's toes, we get an up close look at how hard ballet is on the human body. As if the psychological turmoil wasn't enough for poor Nina, the physical toll is just as prominent.

As the ballerina seeking the pinnacle of perfection, Natalie Portman achieves that which her character so desperately desires. Her performance is a milestone, not only in her career, but in acting, period. Every ounce of praise directed toward her is richly deserved. Nina goes through a ringer of emotional changes, be it the sweet, delicate girl she starts out as, the rebellious grown-up Lily unleashes in her or the manic frenzy she's reduced to when things really get out of hand. Portman never misses a beat. When I first heard that Mila Kunis had been cast as Lily, I wasn't exactly thrilled. I'm happy to say that I was wrong about her, as she is terrific here. She made me forget all about her role on "That 70's Show". Vincent Cassel is also fantastic as Thomas Leroy, and his relationship with Nina is one of the film's strongest aspects. He had serious doubts about her, but he believed in her all the same. Enough so that he put his doubts aside and took the biggest possible risk on her. Barbara Hershey is unnerving as Nina's overprotective mother, and Winona Ryder makes the most of her brief role as Beth, the aging star whom Nina replaces.

Matthew Libatique's cinematography is beautifully realized. Combining the raw grittiness of the pseudo-documentary material with the nightmarish imagery of Nina's hallucinations and the elegance of the ballet, the film is a joy to behold. Clint Mansell's music, complete with elements from "Swan Lake", is also amazing, just as much a character as any breathing person on screen. I was disappointed that Mansell didn't have more of a presence in "The Wrestler", so I was happy to have him back in full force with "Black Swan".

Aronofsky is my favorite director to come along in the last 20 years or so. "Pi" was a solid debut, "Requiem for a Dream" is an utter masterpiece (still my favorite film in general), "The Fountain" is an underrated gem and "The Wrestler" is a strong character study. I'm pleased, but not surprised, to say that "Black Swan" is another film that further solidifies his position as a master filmmaker. As for Portman, she doesn't need the "Best Actress" Oscar to solidify how great she is. Besides, after Sandra Bullock "won" last year, they'll obviously give that award to anybody.
27 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Have I watched the wrong movie???@>?~?
Anna522 January 2011
I couldn't wait to see Black Swan, given all the rave reviews.....and I could hardly sit through it when I finally did.... Seriously, what film has everyone been watching? How can anyone consider this film a masterpiece and how can it end up with a score of 8+ on IMDb? This film is about as subtle as a sledge hammer, it's trying very hard to be deep and psychological, but it's basically just pretentious. Dramatic music at every corner is setting the tone and Ms Portmans pain stricken face in constant close ups....just in case the audience doesn't get it, yes indeed, this is supposed to be a very disturbing film. I wish it was! Then at least I would have felt anything at all. Instead, the way the story was told the characters left me completely cold. Don't get me wrong, I love great movies, an intelligent script and more than anything I appreciate a film that gets under my skin and touches me emotionally. This film so doesn't. Actually it left me so indifferent, I can't even be bothered to put much effort into this review.
177 out of 344 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Shame
ellayla20 January 2011
An awful film that spoon feeds cliché gimmicks to the audience and is truly disrespectful to the struggles a performing artist undergoes when s/he adopts a character as well as anyone who crosses the line into mental affliction.

A terribly written script, poor story and character development, below average acting from the lead, disservice to the art of music and ballet. What happened to you Darren? This film is as bad as Requiem and the Wrestler were wonderful.

An abomination for cinema and performing arts that this may become the new hallmark in the industry.

A shame.
122 out of 232 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
A Horror Movie Marketed As An Art Film
BKTrayner8 January 2011
I wrestled with whether to submit a review for this reason: everybody is entitled to their own taste in movies, and the mere fact that this movie is not to my taste doesn't make it "bad." On the other hand, I note that people who obviously like horror movies have given this movie an enthusiastic rating so that, on balance, I see no reason why I shouldn't rate it "awful" based upon my dislike of this genre.

The next question I asked myself was whether there was any point in submitting a review -- what could I add beyond simply dissing horror movies. I answer that question this way: I saw this movie because it was released at year's end with an "Oscar buzz" and it turns out to be simply a horror movie. It has all the gory scenes and demon-like characters popping up suddenly when a door is opened that is de rigueur in such a flick.

The story that underlies this tale profiles the psychiatric torments of a profoundly disturbed individual. As such, this tale could have been told without the gratuitous "sex" and without the special effects. It is sad that the movie industry has come to the point where the fare of mindless summer blockbusters is now being served up as serious drama.

If horror movies are your thing, go for it. Otherwise, I'd take a pass.
152 out of 293 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Natalie Portman's whining
flexi_raptor10 November 2020
Is there a movie where she doesn't cry? I mean it, I want to see it!

Portman won a Oscar for best actress in this movie and after receiving the little statue she thanked everybody, including hair & make up, just not her dance body double Sarah Lane. I saw an interview with miss Lane where she confessed that someone from the production team contacted her and asked her not to talk about her role in the movie untill the Oscars are over.

When the producers/ director/ actors decide it's ok to make you believe that Natalie Portman became a ballerina in little more than a year and to take the credit from the true artist that did most of the difficult dancing, that's a good enough reason for me to give this movie a one star.

Lost respect!
13 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
Pop Corn and Art
dusan-2215 January 2011
This movie reminds me on how one average American imagines art. Probably the same way that the whale imagines how is it to fly as an eagle. This movie is a cheap insult for Chaikovsky. Pulling up the standard prosaic and narrow film ideas to imply art, Hollywood brings this time one more dull and unimaginative film work. Black Swan has no film pattern at all. No film rhythm. No film plot. And no art sparkles at all. It is the same tense in the beginning as at the end. Or is the life of pro ballet player with difficulties she is facing a film plot just because Chaikovsky is involved? Poor Chaikovsky could not melt in this tele novela mish-mash of sex and twist, love and hate. Did I say that this is definitely the worst movie of Vincent Cassel? And above all Mr director, even if you latently tried to film the Swan Lake you should be aware of the fact that film and ballet are two different art categories. Did you say 8.6 grade??? I am definitely leaving IMDb. Do svidaniya!
124 out of 237 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed