Black Swan Reviews
Also like The Wrestler, Aronofksy approaches the material rough, harsh, cinema-verite, though here I don't agree with it as it feels less reflective of the inner psychological portrait it's supposed to be. The lighting style and film stock don't work with the finds of angles, movements, and eventual edits. It's awkward and too grainy. It feels at times Aronofsky is hiding his points to make a more popular looking film in favor of one that's more interesting.
But the performances, expressions, and makeup are perfect. It lends to the effect of Lily being natural for the role of Black Swan; she's a little darker, hotter, in touch with the necessary reality required to understand the role. Nina can't depict this because she's a dramatist, a faker, an isolated compulsive dancer who only understands art outside context of reality. Makeup is key because it manipulates the faces to play these roles effectively.
Obsessive vanity has its rewards; Nina gets the part but is less liked by her peers. The sadness is that Nina is deluding into the Black Swan character, a slow digression from obsession. She sees herself as becoming this Swan.
Lily in black, Nina in white, they fittingly meet in the bathroom and the dynamic is perfect. Lily is sexually suggestive, seductive, friendly and inviting to Nina, a true angel vs devil story.
The Director is the manipulator of the black/white, good/evil dynamic, and in-betweener trying to help Nina turn on her lifestyle to become the Black Swan, as suggested by his purely black and white apartment. These colors (or lack of) are a dominant theme. Nina's mother Erica wears black when cutting her nails. Her bedroom is also black and white with just a hint of innocent pink, suggesting her mother's youthful treatment of her is a dangerous innocence sitting on the brink of becoming the absolutist black/white thinker Director is. The overall palette has an interesting limit, some splashes of red added to the black, white, and pink. Expressions of envy were captured, but where was the green to sour the obvious obsession scheme? The problem was I didn't feel we explored beyond these obvious parameters.
The masturbation scene is terrific; as she explores this phenomenal feeling, she is inhibited by the disturbing sight of mother sleeping invasively nearby.
It seems as though this entire stage production is designed to manipulate Nina into broken innocence. Director gropes her sexually, telling her she has to seduce him, not him to her. Eventually, she sees him in an evil mask fucking a woman backstage.
There's some good and bad with the whole Black Swan metaphor. The idea is beautiful, artistic for sure, but at times distracted by reaching, contrived methods. After stabbing Lily to death and effectively becoming the Black Swan, I feel this film is best viewed as a glorified horror film, especially upon the delusion of metamorphosis. Yet it's not that interesting, it's trite, used, not exactly a shocker. It's more fun to believe Lily was killed and that Nina is so crazy as to have needed this to become the Black Swan.
By the time Nina throws herself off stage, it's a bit melodramatic, but a harsh stick to Director and everyone who exploited her being this way. It cleverly fades to white, her darkness complete, now returned to the innocence with her point made. The audience maybe deserves more, I'm not solely interested in her black and white life. Why don't we get to see Erica, Director, and Lily react? The perspective is narrow, the agendas of the supporting cast under-examined. But then it is consistent with Aronofksy, ending Wrestler on a similar note, which didn't seem to need anymore than we saw.
"Black Swan" is a beautiful film that delivers the thrills with one of the (if not the) best performance of 2010. The filmmakers explore deep into character, distancing itself from a plot that focuses more on the story to a plot that makes its main character the central piece, the plot. The film's main theme is the study of Nina's psychological and physical struggles, as she tries and achieves perfection in her role as The Black Swans. A metaphor of sorts, the film shows us Nina getting worst and worst, day by day, getting constant hallucinations, many times seeing a hostile, darker self (much like the Black Swan) trying to somehow take over her. This can be interpreted as simply Nina's obvious pressure for a difficult role. Nina being this fragile sweet girl, who's perfect for the role of White Swan, trying her hardest to become someone else. This other version of herself, in her dreams and hallucinations, is the Black Swan, slowly taking over Nina, Nina embraces this other self, aiming for perfection, which comes with its price. Her hallucinations in which Lily appears could represent the possible sexual attraction Nina had towards her, that would later transform into a feeling of anger and rivalry as Lily eventually becomes Nina's alternate in Swan Lake. It could be that Nina never had any hallucinations, it was simply the beauty of filmmaking, as Nina's humongous pressure is shown through visual imagery or hallucinations.
Aronofsky captures the film's scenes greatly, the ballet scenes being especially beautiful. Using Light, sound, fantastic music and amazing camera work to his favor, Aronofsky shoots beautiful scenes, that I wish lasted longer in the film. The film's music is beautiful with both Aronofsky and the film's original composer, Clint Mansell, basing the film's music on the ballet's original music composed by legendary composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. But none of these scenes would be so great without the inclusion of the beautiful ballet, with gorgeous choreography and beautiful costume designs with the camera playing a fundamental part in these scenes, as Aronofsky puts us up close to the actors making the scenes even better with that extra touch of directing.
Tough the one thing that overcomes all, the complicated, well putt together theme, the beautifully staged scenes, and everything else is, Natalie Portman. The actress is here, how no one has seen her before. Already growing up doing hard demanding roles since the beginning of her career with the likes of "Léon: the professional" and "Heat" to then get older and act in even more complex features such as "V for Vendetta", "Closer" and "Brothers" to only then, get to what in my opinion is her best work to date in "Black Swan". Portman is simply fantastic in here, the actress is flawless playing the fragile, complex and great character of Nina, doing great in every scene including the beautiful ballet scenes for which the actress took lessons to perform. Opposite to Vicent Cassel, in some of the film's most memorable, character-driving and sensual scenes in the film, the actress does great, and the duo shines in some of the film's best scenes. Also opposite to Portman is Mila Kunis, the actress that usually puts her talents to work in comedy, surprises, too giving a great performance, with some scenes alongside Portman showing the actress' undoubtable talent for drama.
"Black Swan" is, as said, a beautiful film with great character study, beautiful production design, fantastic directing of Darren Aronofsky, a stellar cast that does a fantastic job and Natalie Portman in her best performance yet, one that will be hard to be beaten, that only makes me even more excited for Portman's future work. 4.5/5.