Black Swan – Review
October 24, 2010 6 Comments
USA 2010 . Directed by Darren Aronofsky. With Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder
Black Swan is the 5th feature by director Darren Aronofsky. If you think that his previous works include movies like “Requiem for a dream“, you won’t be too much surprised when I tell you that this latest piece is a pretty strong draining experience. A dark, emotional, nightmarish roller-coaster of a movie, and a real exhausting experience. When I left the preview theatre where I watched this I felt I like I had lost a few kilos.
It is also the most accomplished film by Aronoksky. In a Q&A session after the film, the director revealed how he’d been wanting to make a film about ballet for a very long time, but found it quite hard to get it financed. Finally he managed to combine an old treatment he’d been working on for a long time about understudies and ballet dancer in what can only be defined as a psychological thriller.
It is filmed mostly in very tight handheld close-ups, with muted and colors and a general grainy style reminiscent of his previous film The Wrestler. It is quite unusual to be so close to a ballet dancer while she’s performing. We are so used to watch ballet dancers from an “audience prospective”, that is from enough distance where they all seem so light.and graceful. Their movements effortless. But only when you’re so close to them you can really see and feel their pain: the sound of the heavy breathing, the look of exhaustion on their faces. Aronofsky captures all that and more.
The film is certainly not for everybody’s taste: people may find it too strong or even too slow, but if you are a film lover, I am sure you’ll appreciate its technique.
The music also plays a huge part in the film. Once again the director teams up with Clint Mansel who so successfully had produced the hit soundtrack from requiem for a dream 10 years before. The score builds on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and re-works into a film score, enhancing it, making it sound bigger or more haunting and slowing it down, according to what the mood of the film requires.
It is an amazing achievement, but the real star of the film is Natalie Portman, beautiful as ever, who gives the best performance of her career so far (Yes, better than in Leon). She manages to capture both that grace and lightness of the white swan and the darker side of the sexy and devilish black counterpart.
The scene where she phones her mother to tell her that she’s got the part in the Swan Lake, all filmed in a tight close ups, is probably the highlight of the film in terms of acting. You can see every single possible emotion passing though her face: happiness, exhaustion, pride, terror ! She really deserves an Oscar for her performance, though having said that, the film itself is a bit too weird for the Academy and its dark mood that might prevent any other Oscar recognition.
A lot of people have been praising this film calling it a masterpiece, I wouldn’t go that far. It is all fairly predictable if you really want to take it to pieces and, dare I say, slightly over the top with a few moments where it almost falls into a splatter horror without any real need. And of course at the end of the day, it’s all rather ludicrous! Yet it is still closer to “the wrestler” than “Requiem” at least in terms of real emotion and character development, as opposed to “style” over “substance” (let’s face it, I did loved “requiem for a Dream“, and it was beautiful to watch but it did go on for a bit too long and over-stressed its point) and it did manage to create a palpable atmosphere like very few films have this year.
With this movie Aronofsky confirms himself as one of the most interesting, visionary director working in Hollywood today. I wish him good luck for the forthcoming awards Season (though I wouldn’t want to bet on him, as it’s clear that the King’s Speech and the Social Network will get everything else) and I am looking forward to see what he’ll do next with X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2
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