Home Games Technology Movies Retro

Monday, October 25, 2010

BFI Film Festival: Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's fifth theatrical feature, Black Swan, is one of the most anticipated movies of 2011 for good reason - it's near perfect. As for me, it's a testament that cinema is simply not dead yet.

The story follows Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballet dancer at a prestigious dance company in New York, who is given the opportunity to play the two swans, the White and the Black, in a Swan Lake production. Though the director (Vincent Cassel) is not entirely certain of her abilities to act as the Black Swan, he attempts to make her confront her sexuality and inner darkness in order to make her convincing for her role as a seductive sorceress. Nina's fragile state of mind, along with her inexperience of the outside world due to her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) lead her to question reality. To top all that, her relationship with her replacement/rival (Mila Kunis) and her self-destructive predecessor (Winona Ryder) lead her on the verge of sanity - and a physical (?) transformation.

Although the movie owes a lot to classic thrillers like Roesmary's Baby and Suspiria, its execution is totally original, with Aronofsky's mark being crystal clear. It might be actually Aronofsky's most confidently shot film to date - he has now perfected a distinct directorial style that incorporates elements from his previous movies (mostly The Wrestler), but now everything seems effortless, without any need for show-off or experimentation. He manages to create tension from the very first frame of the movie, and it never lets down, but keeps gradually building it to a huge crescendo until the film's climax. The script by Heyman, Heinz, and McLaughlin manages to present a totally convincing character portrayal of a person alienated from the world, built inside the cocoon of high-class art, who slowly explores her dark side. The story provided by Swan Lake is the perfect backdrop for such transformation, where the performer is indeed required to portray two characters in the opposite sides of the emotional spectrum.

All the performers excel under Aronofsky's sure hand; Natalie Portman, a young though heavily experienced actress, plays perhaps the role of her life as Nina. Throughout the film, the camera is always centered on her and the script gives her a variety of opportunities to emote and dance onscreen in surprisingly different ways. Mila Kunis, who hasn't really proved her worth before gives perhaps her first solid performance as the very personification of the Black Swan (while Nina originally starts off as the embodiment of the White one). Ryder's role is very limited but she's perfectly suited for that (in an inspired casting decision that's reminiscent of Rourke's in Wrestler). Hershey's role is perhaps the most thankless, as Nina's mother is written as a just-more-subtle version of Norman Bates' mother in Psycho, but she gives her best to make her look credible. Clint Mansell's score consists of dark variations on Thaikovsky's Swan Lake motifs, although he could do something more given the existing material. But nitpicking aside: 9/10


Eraserheadx said...

I didn't expect anything less from Aronofsky.

mastorak said...

You lucky bastard! I can't wait to watch this one...

Eraserheadx said...

Just came back from watching the film.

It blew me away! What an amazing film!