Black Swan

by on Jan.30, 2011, under Daily Review

I’ve neglected this site for a while, or should I say, I’ve neglected the genre as a whole. After a year of horror films, the past few months, i’ve been catching up on Rom Coms, Drama and Period pieces. With the awards season upon us, I’ve been bagging as many as possible in order to set my own predictions on the table which brings me to Black Swan, which in turn brings me back to the horror genre.

Natalie Portman plays Nina, a dedicated ballerina who dreams of the lead role. A vivid premonition comes true but it’s soon quite apparent that the path to success is not always the fairytale. The nightmare is about to begin. The new production is a reinvention of Swan Lake, a tragic tale, a princess is transformed into a swan who needs to find true love to release her from the curse, but her prince picks the wrong girl and our princess dies of a broken heart. So while Nina is pushing her body to the limit, her mind is crumbling with paranoia.

The film is a stunning character study which delves deep and offers multiple layers for the viewer to play with in their own mind. A crazy mother, pushing her own dreams onto her daughter, an ageing star now replaced, an eager dancer looking for competition and then there is Nina who is struggling with sanity, in need for compliments, success and love. What we also get is a balance or reality and fantasy. As we have the whole film from the view of Nina, every single scene can be questioned as to is this really happening and is it all in wrapped in desire or deep dark thoughts. Notably, the scene at the Hospital with the nail file, I’d question if Nina ever even visited the place or if this is just a subconscious dream of guilt and a desire to succeed, stabbing everyone in her way. The scene between Lily (Milla Kunis) in Nina’s bedroom reinforces this as we obviously see a graphic interaction between the two girls, yet later Lily’s involvement and attendance is questioned. Her mother (Barbara Hershey) also shows conflicting love, singled out mainly as an evil domineering tierant, although her final key scene suggests she is the only person who really knows what is going on in Nina’s head and is concerned about her daughters health. Let me also mention her lustful desire and obsession for the production’s artistic director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel); just who is he having an affair with, Nina? Lily? I’d again, argue this is all in Nina’s mind.

Now, let’s look at the horror side of things. The film is filled with classic 80’s jumps, which with big sound design allow the audience to feel on the edge of their seat, tension and terror with people appearing from behind doors, from the darkness… Classic stuff here. To fuel this, the main narrative focus’ on body horror, a finished result which Cronenberg would be proud of, although, any film fan would be aware, Aronofsky has a reoccurring theme here, the stength and power of the mind through obsession, desire and love which a poses the weakness of the flesh, the cask that we live our lives within; similar to Cronenberg although with immense depths of paranoia. Physically, we see some pretty nasty moments of skin ripping, self harm and the will to get under the irritation of the flesh. To top this all off, we have some weighty tips of the hat to Argento, close similarity to his 70’s masterpiece, Suspiria and his 80’s Opera, but also Nina’s apartment holds some uncanny resemblances to that of Deep Red; similar mirrors in the hallway and horrific paintings of Nina by her Mother and of cause, Argento’s signature theme, protagonists haunted and damaged by the actions of their past or parents. Finally, the club scene completes the salute with red and green lights filling the screen and dance floor, pure Suspiria.
Black Swan is something to watch, something experience and soak up the whole emotion of a woman on the edge and beyond. It’s beautifully horrific, uneasy and at times, difficult viewing, which gives the film that punch. Portman offers a flawless performance here, Cassel, Kunis and Hershey all support perfectly.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • New Year Quotes

    Who can forget the delicate, beautiful and vulnerable features of Natalie Portman in the role of her life, as her prima ballerina Nina struggles with her dark side as she takes on her dream starring role as the Swan Queen. -July Keller

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