The Swan Takes a Dive? or a Bow?

Welcome to the world of Darren Aronofsky. If you are already not familiar with his work, then this is quite the film to use as an introductory tool. In case you are not aware, Aronofsky’s resume includes Pi, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, and he is working on the newest Wolverine movie simply entitled The Wolverine. (click the movie titles to be taken to their page on imdb). Suffice it to say, Aronofsky presents stories in a fashion that makes the audience oftentimes (1) follow the main character very closely and see most through their eyes, (2) cringe at moments of intensity, awe, shock, and/or disgust/intrigue, (3) question the series of events that took place in the film, and (4) trip out! -haha, there’s no other way to say it! His latest, Black Swan, is no different…which is a strength, but can also be viewed as a crippling crutch to this ballerina’s story. (UPDATE: Aronofsky has since left The Wolverine project and will not be directing the film).

(TheScarletSp1der’s note: After watching this movie twice and taking a couple of days to let it sink in, it is still a difficult/daunting task to bring this review to you, the reader. I have a lot to say. That being said, Here goes!)

Black Swan should be considered as a modern retelling of the classic tale of Swan Lake. It is interesting that the characters themselves are working on the beautiful ballet, while, unbeknownst to them, they are also acting it out in their own lives. Black Swan inventively and impressively depicts the individualized stories and struggles of the characters in a manner that is rarely seen. Aronofsky tells the tale through his film that is its own brand of movie: a unique blend of romance, music, self-discovery, suspense, and horror. If psychological and somewhat dark films intrigue you, then Black Swan will definitely impress. Psychological thrillers intrigue me and offer a sense of allure that seemingly draws me to them (i.e. Shutter Island), hence the desire to see Black Swan

Aronofsky tells the story of Swan Lake via the acting of a very talented cast. Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, and several others. It is not only the amazing acting of the cast (Ryder blew me away!) that draws you into the story…,

Portman with Cassel and with Kunis

But it is also the realization of all that the actors had to do in order to play the role, specifically Portman and Kunis. Ballet is no easy feat, and, while I am no ballet expert, the stretches, twirls, tip-toe positions, and more testify to the amount of training and effort they put into these roles aside from just reciting lines.

Natalie Portman plays the part of Nina Sayers, a highly dedicated ballet performer chosen to be the main star of company director Thomas Leroy’s (Cassel) production of Swan Lake. As you soon come to find in this movie, not everything is as they appear. Nina, while a great performer, has led a sheltered life due to an overbearing, and flat-out scary, mother who is living vicariously through her since she no longer dances. Falling in the footsteps of her mother, Nina is completely dedicated to perfection to the point of over-obsession and possibly even insanity. Her obsession does not end with her perfection, as she is also obsessed with things forbidden to her.

There is so much to go over in the film. It can be viewed at in at LEAST three different lights:

  1. A powerful showing of a classic story. Another retelling of Swan Lake that will completely enthrall you, both visually and psychologically, as Nina (white swan) finds herself drawn to, but competing with, Lily (Kunis, the “black swan” of sorts). And if so, then we know how the film will end.
  2. A showing of transformation and the power of influence. A story of a crazy ballet dancer with fantasies and illusions that result from her obsession with her profession and those in it. The transformations that Nina’s character goes through is one of the downfalls of obsessive behavior as she literally seems to be crazy throughout the film in her pursuit to be the black swan. So much that happens in the film leaves one wondering…”What was real, and what was in her mind?”
  3. A showing of a human condition of self-discovery, covetousness, and self-destruction. Throughout the film, it is Nina’s black swan that tries to come out. Perhaps it is Aronofsky’s intent to show that everyone, no matter how fragile, innocent, or weak in appearance, has someone or something they idolize that represents what, inside, they wish to be…and sometimes it just takes that one person, event, thing, or idea to bring that out.

Wow, this film is deep. There is still so much to consider, ponder, and discuss! While there is not much in terms of explanation, and there remains plenty to question (even after a second viewing), one thing very much enjoyed about this film is the fact that it sparks so much conversation, controversy, and intrigue. I wish to thank my friends: Shorty, TheCalm, J-Lizzle, Twitch, TheSilkSpectre, and Lady for accompanying me to the first and/or second viewing. After the show we had a time of roundtable discussion on the film. I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything that happened in the movie…especially the end. A movie that makes you engage your brain during and AFTER its showing is evidence of a job well done. Be warned though: Some may end up watching the film and come the end still be scratching their head.

Please take heed to the rating. Black Swan is rated R for sexuality, language, suggestive dialogue, and mild violence. Elements definitely not suited for children or the easily offended at all. While this can be said for almost a lot movies: Black Swan is not for everyone, some may be made uncomfortable by the scenes of sexuality, some may be bored with the ballet dancing, some may be forced to look away during scenes of mild violence that have no warning that they are coming…..but overall, the cinematography, character growth/transformation, emphatic and contributory music, emotion portrayed on the screen, and the actors themselves make this movie to be worthy of the nominations it has received. It can clearly be seen why this film has received so much attention over the past couple of months.

Overall, I loved the character development, except when it comes to the end, the audience will find themselves more concerned with the psychological and action portions than caring about the main character. The audience follows Nina all the way through, but ends up not really caring about her at the end as much as caring about wanting to know what actually happened. Perhaps the movie intends to take the focus off of the characters and make us focus on the transformation and trepidation of them instead. I don’t really know.

Nonetheless, a very beautiful job done by Darren Aronofsky, Natalie Portman, Vince Cassel, Mila Kunis, and Winona Ryder! I waited a long time to see this film and it did not disappoint.

(Allow me to quickly mention a lot of little things in the movie add intrigue such as the music which dramatically and emphatically played a very vital role in the film. An added touch using themes from the Swan Lake ballet throughout the movie allowing the viewer to relate the tale itself with the movie’s events. Or perhaps even the colors that some characters consistently may wear. Aronofsky will tease your brain throughout the entire film!)

Portman and company, please, take a bow!

Thanks for reading!

Enjoy if you wish…or don’t enjoy! Happy Watching!

TheSp1der’s Score: overall: 7.5 out of 10 stars “Black Swan”

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12 comments

  1. I thought the film was very very well done. I really love Aranofsky’s use of mise-en-scene throughout the feature. I also like how well he shows the world of ballet, much like he did wrestling in “The Wrestler.” I would be amazed if Portman did not receive an Oscar for her performance. I’d probably give the film a 8.5 🙂

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    • Aronofsky indeed does a great job in showing a lot of the ins and outs of ballet. The unending practice and devotion, the endured pain, the long hours. Bravo. And Portman, yes, is deserving of award attention. BUT, I still feel that the audience still deserved a little bit more of an explanation than what was given. Not a total explanation, mind you. But just more.

      Thanks for commenting, and I am glad you enjoyed the movie!

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  2. Wonderful review! Well-done, T, I can see how it takes you a while writing this as you went into a great depth in exploring the themes of the movie. Unlike you, I don’t always gravitate towards dark psychological thriller, especially about obsession, and the heavy sexuality is also what makes me on the fence about seeing this. However, I am intrigued by the world of ballet, there’s something so mysterious and dark about it though on the surface it seems ‘innocent.’ Their ‘obsession’ with perfection can easily drive people to the point of insanity!

    I might end up seeing this though. My sister in-law saw it and was really taken by it. Anyway, thanks for the excellent review!

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    • Thanks for commenting. There were so many elements I wanted to shed light on, but then I’d have to publish a novel! 🙂 The heavy sexuality will bother many audience members. I told my mother I was glad she wasn’t sitting next to me. And I watched as several people looked away during quick flash scenes of unexpected mild violence.

      As long as you go into the film expecting it to be as such, then the viewing expereince may be even more enjoyable.

      thank you for stopping by!

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    • DantheMan! how are you? Thanks for stopping in! Yes, “disturbing and creepy” are good words to use when describing Black Swan. I do believe that Portman is deserving of an Oscar for this one. I hope that she wins. I just question why such a great actress would then go to doing films such as the upcoming Your Highness. (??)

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    • Thank you! I do hope that the film meets your expectations! It’s amazing all of the work Natalie Portman did for the role! and Mila Kunis…she lost I believe about 20 lbs or so to play her part!

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