at the movies: black swan
Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sayers, a ballerina whose desire is to be perfect. When the company’s prima ballerina is forced to retire, Nina is chosen by director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) to dance the lead in the new production of Swan Lake.
Nina’s perfection makes her ideal for the role of the White Swan but that same perfection means the evil and seductive twin role of the Black Swan is difficult for her to portray. The company’s new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), is a perfect black swan and a rivalry grows between the two ballerinas. As Lily helps Nina to discover her dark side and opening night draws closer, Nina finds it hard to maintain her grip on reality.
Without a doubt, this is a spectacular film. Portman is eerily perfect as Nina, and not just because she trained in ballet for years – she also elegantly portrays Nina’s mental and physical fragility as her desire for perfection destroys her.
The film gets its strength (as well as its shock factor) from presenting a mental breakdown from the inside. For me, it was the use of mirrors (a staple of ballet studios as well as the object that shows us ourselves) that was particularly brilliant. I also loved the Clint Mansell and the Chemical Brothers’ reworking of the classic Tchaikovsky Swan Lake composition to create an edge-of-your-seat score.
Black Swan really deserves the awards buzz it’s been getting and Natalie Portman definitely deserved her Golden Globe – I expect we’ll see a few more nods when we get to Oscar time.
I don’t care who you see this with – just see it (though if psychological themes freak you out, perhaps take somebody to hold).