Movie Reviews

Review: Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky

Natalie Portman
Vincent Cassel
Mila Kunis
Barbara Hershey
Winona Ryder

A ballet dancer strives for the lead in Swan Lake, as she is perfect for the role of the White Swan, but begins to lose her mind as she searches for the Black Swan within.

I have to see this movie again. This is one of those films that deserves (and truly requires) a second viewing. I made the mistake of taking my girlfriend with me to see the film, so I was a bit distracted about her being so terrified and/or disgusted of what was on the screen. I plan on giving this a second viewing pretty soon, so my final grade for the film may change.

Aronofsky has always had a knack for getting terrific performances out of his actors. Portman will receive a nomination for this, Ellen Burstyn received a nomination for her work in Requiem for a Dream, Mickey Rourke received a nomination for his work in The Wrestler (and was robbed of that award), and Hugh Jackman gave us his best performance to date in The Fountain. So it comes as no surprise that Natalie Portman gives a career best performance here, and arguably the best performance of the year, as Nina Sayers. Portman trained as a ballet dancer a year before the film began shooting, and on top of being a fantastic ballerina she brings this great intensity to her character as the film progresses. Nina’s ultimate transformation is one of the most captivating things put on screen this decade.

Other notable performances come from Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey. Cassel is great as always, mixing dark humor and a certain amount of creepiness into nearly every scene. Hershey, on the other hand, gives a surprisingly strong and memorable performance as Nina’s mother – terrifying us at one point while making us sympathize with her the next.

Director Darren Aronofsky, previously of Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler, crafts a terrifyingly engaging tale about the world of ballet – the struggle for perfection, the determination, the pain, the physical, emotional, and mental toll that it takes on a person. I hate giving anything away about the film’s plot in my reviews, but this is definitely one of the most engaging films ever made. This is an intelligently formulated film mixed with ballet and horror that studies the human condition. Aronofsky’s films have had a similar theme running through them of finding the brightest of moments in our world as we explore it’s darkest corners. Black Swan is no exception. Everything little thing in this film grows as one as Nina transforms. From little changes in clothing (keep a close eye on that, it is a very interesting detail with every character), tone in music (Clint Mansell’s score is nothing less than amazing), camera angles, and even the attitude of the characters. Everything begins to look and sound a little darker – a little more mysterious.

Along with Inception, this is the most unforgettable film of the year. Ever since I walked out of this screening, I have ceased to forget even the slightest detail about this film, and Black Swan is all about the details. This is truly a film that has to be seen to believe, because through all the madness and darkness, there is a true heart to it. While it may not always be easy to watch, you really can’t help yourself. This is the best work Aronofsky has done and could possibly his masterpiece. There is a true evolution that has come out of his previous work that is presented here. I don’t think this film will get the notice it deserves, but no one can deny that this is a special film that truly has a knack for grabbing ahold of you and not letting go until the credits inevitably roll.

Rating: R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language, and some drug use.

Runtime: 108 minutes

Grade:  A

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