Here’s a quick warning to anyone looking to watch Black Swan when
it finally hits UK screens; do not expect subtlety. For this is an OTT,
uber-camp, psycho melodrama of epic proportions that at times, is
difficult not to have a good giggle at. After it’s world premiere at the
Venice Film Festival critics were quick to label it as a Marmite film
that audiences and journalists would either love, or hate and that seems
to be the a correct assumption.
Set in a New York City ballet company where highly competitive
dancers are capable of clawing their rival’s eyes out, the director
Thomas Leroy (Cassel) decides to begin production on a new stage
version of Swan Lake with a new Swan Queen as his star ballerina Beth
(Winona Ryder) is considered too old and inebriated to take the lead.
Nina Sayers (Portman) is short-listed alongside other dancers but while she fully inhabits the role of the White Swan, she is unable to darkly seduce the way the Black Swan does.
After an encounter with Leroy in which her actions surprise him, he
casts her in the lead much which delights Sayers and her overbearing,
former ballerina mother, Erica (Hershey).
Already unhinged, Nina begins to completely unravel and start hallucinating amongst other things while becoming very jealous and suspicious of newcomer Lily (Kunis)
who is able to effortlessly be the Black Swan where Nina always seems
to falter. Although Black Swan is basically set in Sayers head, it’s the
relationship between her and Lily that is the spine of the film and
Nina’s descent into madness. Portman and Kunis’ similar looks are
expertly played upon by Aronofsky who clearly wanted to delve into the
world of doppelgangers but with cheap shock after cheap shock that are
framed with endless reflections that come to life and drive Nina round
the bend, it all becomes a little ineffective.
insane melodramatic schlock may keep you intrigued but it never manages
to truly immerse as everything including the kitchen sink is thrown at
the screen and remains woefully devoid of tension. It’s ridiculously outrageous and very watchable but while the conclusion is expertly paced, it’s hard to give a damn about anything going on.
Still, there is plenty to praise in Black Swan. Natalie Portman is
overwrought and expresses every worry and stress through her stretched
and painfully thin neck. Real ballerinas may watch and recoil in horror
at the state of her port de bras, (it’s impossible to learn a lifetime
of skill in a few months) it’s hard to notice when it’s her and when
it’s her body double. After a lifetime of fine performances (and the Star Wars prequels) her performance is astonishing but not entirely surprising. Instead, it’s Mila Kunis who truly breaks out of the shadow of being Meg in Family Guy and the cute girl from That 70s Show to become a bonafide star with an almost certain nod for an Oscar.
Designing duo Rodarte created some sumptuous costumes that are as
visually stunning as Aronofsky’s direction. He clearly had a good time
going for the gusto but while some may love its outrageous qualities,
others will just think it’s a bit silly. Either way, Black Swan is a film everyone should see.