Black Swan was brilliant, tense, crazy, disturbing and stunning all at the same time.
Watch out, this review contains some spoilers because I really can’t think of any other way to talk about this movie. So read on with caution.
Natalie Portman, in a performance that will no doubt earn a lot of award nominations and wins this season, plays Nina, a ballerina who gets the lead role in Swan Lake. But can she handle the dual role of the White Swan and the Black Swan? The director’s not sure. Nina doesn’t lose her self in the dancing enough. Her perfection is ideal for the White Swan, but she needs to loosen up to play the Black.
Mentally it’s a question if she can play the role too because her grip on reality is questionable to say the least. Her mom, played by an incredible Barbara Hershey, is a stage mother to an extreme. Is she looking out for her daughter or adding to the mental problems? Mom was sort of like the mom from Carrie in her spooky, controlling manner mixed with overtones of Mama Rose from Gypsy. This is not a mom for the mentally unbalanced.
A couple other dancers play into the delusions too. New-to-the-company ballerina Lily seems out for the Swan Queen role–or is she? She might just want to be Nina’s friend, she does offer to take her out for dinner and dancing so they can become friends. Then there’s retiring principal Beth (played by Winona Ryder, who shines in this small supporting role) who seems to be a bit unhinged herself.
In some cases, because the movie’s point of view is all Nina’s, I’m not sure in some cases where the lines are between what really happened and what’s in Nina’s head. That’s okay though. Director Darren Aronofsky whipped up an incredibly suspenseful film. It was like Hitchcock meeting the world of ballet. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique did amazing work here with such tight camera angles and work that makes it feel like the camera is another dancer. It gets a bit claustrophobic sometimes, but that merely adds to the tension.
The ending is every bit as sad and disturbing as Swan Lake. I’ll watch this again when it hits DVD to see if I can sort out what’s real and what’s not. Meanwhile, if you don’t mind seeing a dark film, add this to your must-see list.