Black Swan Review

Published: December 23rd 2010
in Culture » Movies

Black Swan

After debuting at the Venice Film Festival to glowing accolades, it became apparent that Black Swan was something different. Directed by Daren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler), the film is a psychosexual thriller set in a fictitious New York City ballet company. With Black Swan, Aronofsky cunningly pulls back the velvet curtain to the high-brow world of ballet, revealing a decidedly dark underbelly. Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a fragile, prudish dancer in the company, who like everyone within this rarified world, is utterly consumed by her art form. The company’s artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) dismisses his prima ballerina (Winona Ryder) and gives Nina the duplicitous lead role of the lovely Swan Queen and the evil Black Swan in Swan Lake. Playing the former comes seamlessly to Nina, as she is a girlish woman living with her quondam ballerina mother with thwarted ambitions (Barbara Hershey), who coddles and infantilizes her daughter. Nina’s room resembles the hue of Pepto-Bismol, complete with an army of stuffed animals that reside on her bed. Playing the dark and sensuous Black Swan is a stretch, to say the least. Leroy chides Nina for being incapable of seducing the audience, and thus effectively playing the Black Swan to his satisfaction. With the arrival of the hedonistic Lily (Mila Kunis) to the company, Nina’s anxieties are heightened with presumed competition. It becomes apparent that Nina has deep rooted emotional and psychological issues that will be exacerbated by the pressures of the role.


Here, Aronofsky drags the audience on a downward trajectory of madness, or is it reality? Nina begins to unravel, pushing her body to the brink of exhaustion, prone to self mutilation, and suffering from lurid hallucinations, or are they actual events? Aronofsky keeps the audience guessing, using mirrors and flashes of alternate ways of viewing scenes, a constant reminder that fantasy and reality are terrifyingly interchangeable.


Portman delivers an enthralling performance, already garnering a Golden Globe nomination. Undoubtedly, this role will elevate her from leading actress to major star. Especially, if she hoists an Academy Award as so many are already whispering about. All the performances are worthy of being lauded, and Aronofsky did an expert job of coaxing the very best out of all his actors. This is certainly not the sort of film that one forgets about upon exiting the theatre. It is an intensely sensual ride into delirium.


Black Swan is in wide-release throughout North America.

Related articles: (Black Swan, Aronofsky, Portman, Film, Ryder)

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