Archive for the ‘Black Swan’ Category

Black Swan – review

Black Swan – 12/6/10

Darren Aronofsky has made a career of disturbing films that examine the deep, dark side of characters.  Requiem For a Dream focused on the dark side of drug abuse, addiction, sex, and money.  The Wrestler focused on a broken man, trying to hold on on to a lifestyle, and dream, that has body could no longer physically endure.  Black Swan is no different from these films as we follow a slightly disturbed ballet dancer who is willing to do anything in order to make her performance perfect, and to me this is actually the biggest problem, not with the film so much, but with Aronofsky’s direction of it.  He is redo-ing the same film over and over again, and shooting it in the same way as well.  I will say this though, Aronofsky has stated that he considers Black Swan a companion piece to The Wrestler, so this was obviously his intent to have the films mirror each other.

Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballerina in a NYC company who is up and coming.  She is somewhat troubled, and we learn this right away as she begins to see strange things which include alternate versions of herself.  She lives with her mother in a small apartment.  Her room is dressed up as if it’s a fairy tale, all in pink and lace, and she is treated as a child by her mother who used to be a ballerina as well.  The fairy tale element is at the forefront of the film.  The wicked mother, the beautiful girl held captive in the castle, the charming prince, and the evil alter-ego.  It’s an adult fairy tale and that does actually work quite well for the film.

Nina is up for taking the lead role in a new interpretation of ‘Swan Lake’, put on by director Thomas (played by Vincent Cassel).  If she gets the role she will be taking over for the aged Beth (Winona Ryder).  The previous star of Thomas’s ballets, but alas she is over the hill must be put aside.  Nina has all of the technique down pat to become the next star of the company.  She embodies everything that is the epitome of the White Swan in her technique, however ‘Swan Lake’ is about the evil twin the Black Swan as well, and Nina can not seem to morph into the passion and fire that the Black Swan exudes.  Lily (Mila Kunis) soon enters the film as the wild child of ballet, the free spirit if you will.  Lily attempts to befriend Nina, while perhaps secretly gunning for the lead part as well. Lilly and Nina then enter into…lets just say an interesting relationship with each other.

The film soon begins to morph into the play, and the play morphs into the film as well, as they become one within each other.  There are some really stunning set pieces that begin to bring all of this together.  The set design and costume design both aid in the overall telling of the story.  Black and white are key here, and the surroundings of the actors, along with the colors they choose to wear throughout the film are just as much a main character as they are themselves.  Attention to detail is high here, and I can definitely appreciate that.  There’s also a lot going on with mirrors, mirror images, and this idea of perhaps what we are seeing, or even everything we are seeing is not real, and we are left to decipher the images.  If you decide to see the film I highly recommend you pay attention to this.

Black Swan is not necessarily a bad film at all, but it’s not a great film in my mind either.  Aronofsky continues to use his tight, jittery, and claustrophobic camera techniques, but that is my biggest issue. You are basically watching The Wrestler, or Requiem For a Dream, over again.  It’s just the subject matter that has changed.  All these films are about the excessive behavior of wanting something so badly that it begins to break down the human psyche, and physically break down the body.  Nina’s body begins to break down, begins to transform into something else because she is so intent on becoming perfect, or attaining perfection, and this is the case with all of Aronofsky’s characters.  It’s about transforming into something you are constantly striving to become, and sometimes that’s not a good thing.  The biggest issue is that his films and characters are presented in the same way, and lack originality at times.

I still enjoyed the film.  I just found that there were way to many jittery closeups, and Portman’s character was always in distress.  That weighs on a film after a while, and at times makes the picture seem to work to hard, and that’s what I think happened here and really keeps the film from being a best picture contender this year.  The weight of the film sometimes makes it collapse upon itself.  For some people the dream/nightmarish quality will be too much, or even ridiculous to them (as per the hefty amount of chuckles in the movie theater).  This wasn’t really an issue for me, as I said before the film plays like a fairy tale, and I bought in to that aspect.   Some people will love this film, I just know it, and thats great, and I can respect someone that could tell me why they loved the film so much, but I just can’t say I LOVED the film.

Grade: B