Black Swan

Year: 2010
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder

It's ironic that I loved Requiem For a Dream and The Fountain so much and now Aronofsky has generated some serious awards buzz and kudos with his last two films (this and The Wrestler) and I haven't liked them nearly as much.

Everything about Black Swan felt and looked right. The performances from Portman, Cassel and Hershey were rock solid, Portman in particular sliding definitively into the skin of the talented but innocent Nina.

The detail of the ballet world and its trappings felt startingly authentic, even down to the former muse (Ryder) shunted aside because of her age – handled so much more deftly than Elizabeth Berkeley pushing Gina Gershon down the stairs in Showgirls.

I also get that it was about an unreliable narrator. Before seeing it all I'd head was how brilliant it was and I didn't know whether to expect (or read into) a supernatural element. The fact everything that happens is a result of Nina's fracturing mind is cleverly handled in hindsight, it's just that it was slightly on the wrong side of explicable to satisfy me until it was all over and could deconstruct it. It might be one to watch again.

There were a lot of themes going on - the one I got out of it was of embracing your dark side to create great art. When ballerina Nina unexpectedly gets the much-coveted lead in a major New York company's production of Swan Lake, fiery director Thomas (Cassell) has no doubt she can do the virginal white swan with her eyes closed.

But when it comes to the passion and abandon of the black swan, he's not so sure. As he coaches her to try and find the darkness that will give the character full flight Nina's mind starts to fall apart. Scratches on her body start growing primordial feathers. The friendship of a free-wheeling colleague (Kunis) may or may not have an ulterior motive. Her former ballerina mother (Hershey) runs Nina's life like the mother from Carrie .

The premise of the film (as far as I can make it out) is that Nina will have to destroy everything familiar and comfortable around her to find the emotional release she needs to dance the black swan's part, and doing so might destroy her.

Even now after thinking about it for a while it's hard to put my finger on what it was missing for me, but Aronofsky has unmistakably matured and will remain a director to watch closely.

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