A committed ballerina slips slowly into madness after
landing the lead in a troubled production of Swan Lake.
Black Swan (2010)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin
Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel,
Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Oscar Wins - Best Actress (Natalie Portman)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Black Swan is a stylized descent into hell led by frequent tour guide Darren Aronofsky. I've always been slightly disturbed by ballerinas in the first place. The psychological and physical dedication is at an unsettling level, and this film shows the ultimate worst case scenario for both. Both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis give it their all for this one, with the former nabbing an Oscar for her subtle performance that grows steadily more unhinged. It's a smart, sexy, and often spellbinding look into one of the most highly competitive artistic communities in the world; one that few people escape unscathed in one way or another.
Nina (Portman) is a timid, shy young woman whose overprotective mother (Hershey) gave up a ballerina career to have a daughter. So, naturally, Nina has been groomed to live out her mother's dream, and it's driving her completely insane. When Nina is up for the lead in arrogant, sexually exploitative director Thomas Leroy's (Cassel) production of Swan Lake, she becomes determined to impress him. But to do that, she must shed her timid self and adopt a wild, impulsive alter ego...the Black Swan. She has a rival in the equally talented but far more brash Lily (Kunis), and as the film progresses, we see Nina lose herself in the role and slip slowly into madness. It's done quite well, which surprised me. As far as Aronofsky goes, I still can't quite get the taste of Mother! and Noah out of my mouth.
Black Swan is known mostly for its intense lesbian sex scene, which I must say is shocking in all the right ways. But this film is so much more than that. At times, it's a deeply unsettling psychological horror film. At other times, it's a depressing drama. Depending on your mood, those themes can turn on a dime, which is impressive. The entire ending is up for interpretation. Did it really happen or did Nina imagine the whole thing? Love it or leave it, it's imaginative and leads to a fulfilling arc.