Thursday, December 9, 2010

Movie Review- Black Swan

Last Friday Black Swan was released in only 18 theaters nationwide, yet it managed to muster up $1.4 million, making it a record in terms of average dollar made per theater prompting Fox to announce more release dates over the next couple weeks! See the release date list here. I luckily had a few of my local theaters playing so I got the fortunate chance of seeing it that weekend. It became very clear why this movie was the most sought after film to watch at the Toronto Film Festival and I've been giddy for a chance to watch it ever since. Black Swan was a phenomenal masterpiece by Darren Aronofsky and this following up with The Wrestler will surely make him one of the most sought after directors.

Though I've never seen The Wrestler, I know the basic premise to understand why people call it and The Black Swan brother and sister pieces. We've got two very different art forms on the completely opposite ends of spectrum, yet it engulfs an artist mentally and physically by having them put their bodies through incredible physical abuse for the purpose of public entertainment. In The Black Swan, the story follows Nina Sayers, who's played by Natalie Portman, a ballerina at some New York City dance company. The company is run their slimy creative director Thomas Leroy who decides their next project is to be his new rendition of Swan Lake. He is kicking out the company's current prima ballerina Beth Macintyre (played by Winona Ryder) in order to bring in a new, young one. Nina, being an incredibly dedicated dancer, is determined to get the part of the Swan Queen, but in order to do so, she must be able to embody the sweet and innocent white swan as well as the sensual and seductive black swan. Nina easily gets the part of the white swan down, but the director wonders if she can handle the part of the black swan; however, he is soon convinced she does have a darker side hidden deep underneath and takes a chance by casting her in the part. Soon, she beings to feel threatened by a new arrival at the company named Lily (played by Mila Kunis) who plays the part of the seductive black swan perfectly. Nina sees Lily to be very much the hidden darker side of herself and soon, from the competition she alludes along with the incredible demands of perfection from Thomas and her psychotic mother, Nina begins to explore her darker side pushing her into a dangerous and twisted world in her own mind.

At the beginning of the film, we see Nina as an adult forced into staying a little girl. She talks with a tiny voice, she's pressured to stay so thin that shes absolutely boob-less, she's babied by her mother, and is clearly sexually deprived. As she changes from being a shy, innocent girl to a dark and dangerous one, we get many contrasts of good and evil, light and dark. Nina is usually seen wearing white and pink throughout the film, while Lily and Nina's evil hallucinations of herself are seen wearing black. As Nina descends deeper and deeper in darkness, she gradually transforms more and more into a black swan and by the final act, we see her complete transformation. I heard in one interview, Darren Aronofsky describe it as a werewolf-ballerina movie.

Nina's journey into becoming the black swan is a trippy and dark one. It did remind me quite a bit like Requiem for a Dream. The movie moves at a steady pace, and suddenly descends on a intense and spiraling trip as it reaches the end. There are plenty of horror elements in the film. Not really pop out and jump scares, but mind fucking scares. It seeps into the sort of irrational fears we have such as thinking we're going to see a face staring back out at us when we look through a window. As we approach the final act, you're left wondering what things are really taking place and what Nina is just imagining. It's all a big thrill ride and I found myself clutching the theater seat the entire last half hour of the movie.

The entire film is one big allegory to the Swan Lake story. If you look at the cast, their named by two roles they play. For example we have Nina/The Swan Queen, Lily/The Black Swan, Thomas/The Gentleman, Beth/The Dying Swan etc. If you know what happens at the end of Swan Lake, you can probably guess what happens at the end of this movie. I loved Natalie Portman as Nina in the film. This further proves the fact that Natalie Portman is just too perfect at everything she does and must not be human. I heard that she and Mila Kunis had to practice ballet technique five hours a day, seven days a week for six months. I'm curious to know how much of the film was actually her dancing- I heard she did have a dance double for certain shots. Mila Kunis did well as Lily and it was nice to see her break away from comedy for a bit. Vincent Cassel was a great choice for Thomas with his kind of strange yet good looks. I'm really hoping Natalie will win the Oscar for this one.

When I went to go see 127 Hours, a trailer for The Black Swan came on and when it ended, some pretentious asshat behind me coughed "really gay" loudly in the theater. I hope no guys out there are dissuaded to see this film because its about ballerinas. It's a marvelous thrill ride that can demand the attention of a diverse audience. It's creative, scary, sexy and exciting. The cinematography is gorgeous, the score is beautiful, Nina's transformation sequences look great, the acting is tremendous, and of course the directing is top notch. Aronofsky has managed to create a beautifully crafted nightmarish masterpiece.

Final Score- 10/10

1 comment:

  1. I liked it enough. Though really do wish Aronofsky did the right thing and gave more credit to Perfect Blue which clearly had a big influence on this movie. Also wasn't a big fan of how low budget this movie looked. Considering for the type of film it was, it had a very decent sized budget.