Black Swan (2011)

27 Jan

Darren Aronofsky doesn’t pigeonhole himself: though he works rigidly within the realms of drama, he’s tackled all sorts of subjects from drug abuse to time travel. Now with his latest Oscar-nominated film he’s taking on the world of ballet. And turning it into a psychological horror.

Black Swan is the story of sweet momma’s girl Nina (Natalie Portman) who strives for perfection in her ballet. When she is surprisingly cast as the Swan Queen in a new production of Swan Lake, her inability to inhabit the role of the wicked Black Swan leads her down the road to insanity, where she believes that fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her role and she begins to descend into madness.

There were a few things I didn’t actually ike about this movie: first was Natalie Portman who, despite being tipped to pick up the Best Actress Oscar, was completely insipid as Nina and I didn’t feel for her at all. Now, you could say this is because Nina is supposed to be a wimp anyway but there was something about the fact that she continually had a small, weak voice, kept apologizing all the time and spent much of the movie with her face chiselled in either shock, horror or depression that was really annoying: how could anyone actually empathise with this girl? Lily was a much more believable person in that she actually seemed to have a personality that extended beyond being timid.

Secondly, the final third was a bit bogged down in melodrama: while the first hour or so of the film works its way through why Nina might be going a bit crazy and builds up character, the last third consists of little more than the actual performance itself and Nina running around in a panic because she’s seeing things and grappling with her mum because she’s actual concerned for her daughter’s wellbeing – typical, eh? Things get a bit too fast paced to the point where you just want Aronofsky to tone it all down a little – it didn’t quite sit right with the slow build-up and tension that preceded it.

Still, the cinematography is wonderful, especially in the dance sequences (both during the performances and in the training for the roles) and Aronofsky’s camerawork does well to try and get you to be part of Nina’s life by following her around and tracing her steps impeccably. This is the strongest point of the film, which is a shame because you kind of expect a little more from it (what with the hype and all). This doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable and there are the obligatory shocks (even though you can see them coming a mile off). The atmosphere of tension is also sustained throughout, helped by the pulsating sounds and creepy noises that accompany Nina’s voyage into the unknown.

Verdict: Good, even though the main character is completely annoying (trust me, by the end you wish she’d just toughened up instead of moaning all the time). Excellent camera and cinematography make this film instead of the acting, but it’s still worth watching for some of the beautiful imagery and dance sequences.

7 OUT OF 10

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