If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Hello and welcome to another review, this time we'll be having a look at the critically acclaimed Black Swan; the most recent venture of Darren Aronofsky.
An opening word- I fucking love Darren Aronofsky. Everything the man touches gold. A good artsy/philosophical movie is always enjoyable. Aaaand on with the review.
Black Swan tells the story of an up-and-coming dancer, Nina Seyers [Natalie Portman] as she vies for the lead role in her company's production of Swan Lake. As she tries to master the seductive, sensual style that is the Black Swan [she already has the innocent White Swan down pat], she begins to lose herself and her mind--all the while the production date draws nearer.
Now, that being said, you don't need to know anything about Swan Lake going in to this film, I am in no way a dance connoisseur and I understood the film perfectly well. The story of the play is explained by the dance director [Vincent Cassel], and then it is only a matter of time until the viewer begins to understand what is really happening in the film.
Dear god, Aronofsky has done it again. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career with Black Swan, and she is sure to take in all kinds of award nominations. Whether she gets them is up to the bigwigs at the academy, but Portman is just wonderful in her role. I was just as lost as her character was, following every twist and turn the film threw at her and us as viewers. When she cried, I bought it. When she was happy, I bought it. I had never seen Natalie Portman in such an emotional and artistic role, and she really pulled it off.
Mila Kunis was spectacular as a supporting role--really really creepy. I was wondering whether or not she was just a hallucination at first but oh no. Shit gets heavy towards the end. Where was I? Oh yeah- acting.
Vincent Cassel is wonderful, but then again when is he not? If anyone has seen the French Film 'Brotherhood of the Wolf,' then you've enjoyed Cassel for quite some time now. He does not disappoint, and I would argue that Aronofsky produces one of his best performances here.
Whoever played Nina's mother was also very polished, while she was a secondary character it was still great to see that Aronofsky put the method acting details in every last minor background character.
Okay now I get to talk about the best part- what it was the story was actually doing. Throughout the film, Nina is hallucinating grotesque things- not gore for the sake of gore, or shock for the sake of shock; she was coming apart at the seams physically. Several shots are of her peeling large amounts of skin off of her hands, bleeding profusely, a rash on her back that grows and begins to develop strange textures and sprout little black thorns--and all the while the audience can't figure out what's real and what isnt. One moment shes tore off a strip of skin from fingernail up to her wrist, and the next its back to normal. And then Cassel's character explains the story of Swan Lake.
Princess turns into a swan, prince's love can break the spell, but he falls for the wrong girl- the seductive black swan, and overcome with grief the princess kills herself.
Nina is the princess turned White Swan- it is made clear that she can dance the part perfectly. Mila Kunis however, is the sensual Black Swan. The dance director makes several sexual advances towards Nina, moves that all left me staring at the screen like 'what the fuck was that? That can't be legal...' It is then tentatively made clear that Nina may possibly have feelings for the dance director, and as she continues practicing the Black Swan, she hallucinates more vividly. Eventually, she sees Cassel's character getting busy [if you know what I mean] with Kunis, and that is the point in the film where she snaps. Everything should now be clear to the viewer. The revelation:
The film itself is a modern retelling of Swan Lake. Nina, the White Swan, vies for the love of the prince, Cassel, who falls for the wrong girl, Kunis. What's left? Well in the play, the White Swan kills herself...
And yes- the ending sequence is just fucking beautiful- can't put it any other way.
The Visuals / Art
What Aronofsky has done is given us a gritty, psychological thriller complete with mental fuck after mental fuck, all looped up and tied together by his own art direction. The visuals in terms of the hallucinations and what is or isn't real are well done, minimalist--they look like what they need to look like.
I did think, however, that he might have gone a bit too far with the obviousness of Nina's swan transformation. The rash on her back sprouts feathers, her toes become stuck or webbed together, and there is even a climactic scene in her bedroom where her legs' jointery reverses violently to make her legs appear like that of some type of bird. That was the point where I thought the film had slapped me in the face enough with it. I loved what was happening on her back, I thought that was just enough to make me wonder, but the rest was a bit too much in my face, it went against the rest of the established brilliant subtlety.
That being said, the final crescendo of the film- that is the scene in which Nina completes her transformation on stage left me in awe.
Despite Aronofsky's slight departure from subtlety nearing the end of the film, I felt that this was one of the best I have seen all year. I can understand where he would have gone a bit more literal so as to raise the stakes, and bring the audience that sense of realism that had been so tantalizingly dangled before us like a carrot on a stick over the course of the film. Black Swan reinforces every aspect of Aronofsky's direction that leaves me thinking about his work long after I leave the theater.
[Better than Sex]
Breakdown [out of 5]
I leave you with the few remaining questions I have still yet to figure out. If you're a fan of Aronofsky's work like me, you know that every detail is intentional. My questions-
-Why was Nina dropped while dancing the White Swan during the show?
-What was the significance of the hospital scene, in which the Winona Ryder's character stabbed herself in the face and Nina is shown to have held the knife?