Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Swan- A Review

The films of Darren Aronofsky all have one theme in common: obssession. In the case of Swan, perfection is what the lead, Nina Sayers, is obssessed with. What's so interesting here is that I haven't quite seen anything like this film. The subject of ballet infused with dopplegangers, and psychological transformation makes for striking cinema. In the end, the theme may be direct but the visuals are anything but. It's the synthesis of the visual elements that makes it enticing.

Aronofsky might be recycling a few cliches (i.e. the overbearing mother-daughter complex). But given the stellar performances of both Natalie Portman and Barbara Hershey, he is able to reinvigorate them with a fresh coat of paint. The director is no stranger to having strong female performances, as evidenced in Requiem For A Dream. Along with them comes a source of raw intensity that is apparent in the visuals just as much as it is in the performances.

As Nina is run through a gauntlet of competion & finds her patience (& sanity) slipping, the rope tightens ever so slowly. There's one shot of Nina walking toward her ballet studio with her hair all neat. Around the 3/4 mark of the film, Aronofsky employs the same shot but this time it's night and her hair is not so pretty. It's a telling shot that shows how close to the edge Nina is. Black Swan starts off with subdued realism and slowly morphs into psychological horror. This is the closest Aronofsky has come to full on horror. Yet it's effects are more terrifying than most horror films I've seen recently.

The visceral excitement of it all kept me pinned to my seat and fufilled me both cerebrally and emotionally. The final twenty minutes of it is downright breathtaking. All leading up to the last words of the film which appropriately ties things up in a way yet leaves one with some ambiguity. I can't quite tell you what the film means to me because it's one I'm still working on to fully grasp. Still thinking about this one.

Some other thoughts on the previews:

I haven't quite gotten an intangible feeling of awe from a trailer in quite some time. All that changed when I saw Terrence Malick's Tree of Life trailer attached to this film. It's been at the top of my most anticipated films list for a while & after seeing this trailer it doesn't look like the list is changing.


  1. Just got back from the theater after seeing this. Great performances, cinematography, but did you feel a little "fight club" at the end there?

  2. Really dug the ending. I can kinda see where you're coming from with the Fight Club thing. The closest comparisons I could make were Repulsion & Mulholland Dr.