Today: April 24, 2024

Black Swan

Aronofsky’s frantic visuals combined with Portman’s hypnotic performance form an incredibly haunting opus.

Aronofsky’s frantic visuals combined with Portman’s
hypnotic performance form an incredibly haunting opus.

Darren Aronofsky
has never been a director to do things by halves. Requiem For A Dream (2000)
was a harrowing journey into drug addiction, The Fountain (2006) a bleak look
at the power of love. Black Swan is an amalgamation of his work to date. On the
one hand a companion piece to his other Oscar baiter The Wrestler (2008) on the other
a perfect symmetry to his debut film Pi (1998).

Nina (Portman)
aspires to play the lead in her ballet company’s production of Swan Lake. Her
director Thomas (Cassel) appreciates her rendition of the White Swan but doubts
her ability as the Black Swan. Taking a chance Thomas casts Nina and demands
that she get in touch with her dark side. With encouragement from rival
ballerina Lily (Kunis) and increased pressure from her mother (Hershey) Nina
begins to slip into a state of paranoia and hallucinations.

Aronofosky
clearly suffers from obsession, at least his characters in his films certainly
do. But where The Wreslter’s body stood in the way of his determination to be a
star, Nina’s mind, like that of Max’s in Pi, is the thing preventing her from
being great. In her own words she wants “to be perfect” but the only way she
can achieve this is to sacrifice her very soul. Black Swan delves further into
the fractured mind than anything Aronofosky has done to date. Nina’s constant
struggle to overcome her own insecurities is seductive and destructive in equal
measure.

Key to this is a
new arrow to Aronofsky’s already impressive quiver and that is horror. As
Nina’s mind begins to play tricks on her it manifests itself in a wonderfully
over the top style. Owing more than a just a nod to Darrio Argento’s Suspiria
(1977) not to mention a healthy dose of David Cronenberg body horror, Black
Swan is an extravagant delight that will thrill and terrify all at once.

In many ways it
is over the top, basking in its own seven deadly sins, but this is Aronofsky
breaking free. Like Nina’s final embrace of the dark side Aronofsky is
delighting in it. Black Swan is operatic and flamboyant to the point of being
delectably engrossing. Aronofosky’s direction never glamorizes the world of
ballet. On the surface it might be all make-up and tattoos but back stage it is
all bitching, in fighting and backstabbing to be the best. With this in mind
Aronofsky’s trademark hand held camera work shows this world through untainted
glasses, warts and all. His framing and execution, combined with Matthew
Libatique
’s stunning cinematography, infects your mind with the same level of
neuroses as Nina’s.

And the crowing
piece to Aronofsky’s vision, none other than a miraculous, Oscar winning
performance from Natalie Portman. At no point in the film is she off screen and
not once does she falter. Often weak and vulnerable you pity her Nina and long
for her to succeed. Having seen Portman grow up on screen, without ever hitting
a bum role even in Star Wars, this is a genuine coming of age role. At one
moment childlike and fragile the next minute a ball of angst and drama that
catapults you into her character absolutely. A wonderfully dry and perverse
Vincent Cassel and an ever-controlling Barbara Hershey ably support Portman as
the overbearing powers in Nina’s life. Special mention should also go to Milas
Kunis, in a role that will surely see her rise from rom-coms to more serious parts,
she oozes sexuality with every breath she takes.

A film so
intoxicating at times it will leave you gasping for breath Black Swan is a true
revelation. For some it will be too much but for many it is a film that will
sweep you up, spin you round and hurl you head first into a transcendental orgy
for the eyes.

To Buy Black Swan On DVD Click Here Or On Blu-Ray Click Here

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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