“Black Swan” Review
Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”, “The Fountain”, “The Wrestler”) is a special talent. His films are unique and daring, quirky and thoughtful. He is one of only a dozen or so directors on the scene today whose films are mandatory viewing. “Black Swan” is no exception. It is one of the most extraordinary motion pictures of 2010. You should make a special effort to seek it out at your earliest convenience.
The film tells the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a young ballerina who gets her big break as the new ballet season opens in New York. She is cast as the Swan Queen in the upcoming adaptation of “Swan Lake”, replacing the outgoing star who is deemed too old for the part. However, Nina is a nervous, tense and paranoid young girl who doesn’t seem to enjoy the success at all. She is pressured by a domineering mother and an imposing artistic director. Nina is also very suspicious of the other dancers, especially a new girl named Lily (Mila Kunis), who is cast as her alternate. The tension and paranoia keep mounting as the weeks of intense rehearsals take their toll or her, physically, mentally and emotionally. “Black Swan” is the story of a young woman’s descent / transformation into delirious madness.
As much as I admire Aronofsky’s talent… This is Natalie Portman’s film. Her performance is nothing short of miraculous — a career defining role that ranks as one of the finest of the last decade, male or female. I have always been a huge fan, but this elevates my admiration to another level altogether. If she doesn’t win the Oscar for this effort, then there is no justice in Hollywood. I am simply in awe of the transformation she undergoes here. Physically, the part is one of the most difficult I can imagine. She, quite literally, becomes a ballet dancer in this movie. Aside from a few wide angle long shots where she has to maintain “en-pointe” for long periods, she was required to do all of the dancing you see on-screen. Couple that with the emotional turmoil her character must endure and it ranks as one of the most demanding roles I have ever witnessed. Portman transcends the film in ways that reminded me of Marion Cotillard in “La Vie En Rose” (Oscar Winner 2008).
I also want to mention the supporting actors. Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey are all perfectly cast in one of the finest ensembles in recent memory. The movie is beautifully shot and confidently directed. I really felt that I had a grasp on the behind-the-scenes world of ballet. It is a secretly gruesome, but outwardly gorgeous art-form that punishes the performers more than I ever fully appreciated.
This is an intense film, mesmerizing from start to finish. It is clearly one of the best films of the year and should be seen by anyone who loves the arts. It is both lovely and horrific. It is both triumphant and tragic. It is both intimate and grand. I loved it and give it my highest recommendation.