Premiering… recently… (LOL, I’m sorry, lay off me!!) on Cinemax was last year’s highly acclaimed film, Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”.
“Black Swan” is the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballet dancer who covets the prestigious role of the Swan Queen in her company’s production of “Swan Lake”. The role is demanding, and challenging for her, and not just physically. The performance is a dual role… She needs to be able to portray the virginal, innocent, white swan, but also the seductive, evil, black swan. She is criticized for having the technical proficiency, but lacking the emotional conveyance necessary to perform the black swan portion of the role.
The pressure begins to… get to her.
The role of the black swan is challenging for Nina because she, like the white swan, is an innocent young woman. Its obvious she’s led a sheltered existence. So as the movie begins, she’s shown to be under conflicting influences… her mother is overbearing and over protective, but her producer insists on pressing her sexual and sensual limits in order (in part at least) to aid her performance. And adding to the stress she’s under, she has to deal with two other ballerinas. The one she’s replacing as the company’s lead, and the new girl who may have all of the qualities she lacks.
As she earns and prepares for the role, Nina begins to have strange experiences. Flashes of hallucinations, psychosomatic injuries, nervous episodes… It’s readily apparent that Nina is becoming unglued. She is clearly unbalanced by the weight of it all. As she loses herself in the role, she begins to lose herself… in the role.
In spite of it all, Nina presses on, pushing herself harder and harder as the performance approaches. She tests her limits, her endurance, and her grip on reality. It all culminates in an astonishing finale which brings together the onstage production, Nina’s confrontation with her rivals and her obstacles, and the final stages of her struggle with her sanity.
It’s mind blowing.
This is a role for which Natalie Portman deservedly won an Oscar. She does an incredible job of conveying her character’s fragile emotional state. Frightened, repressed, disturbed, aroused, angered, this is anything but an easy role to pull off. But Portman whirls and twirls and tiptoes and dances her way through, acting her ass off every step of the way. She’s completely incredible here, her performance alone is a reason to watch this movie. Dazzling.
Darren Aronofsky is undoubtedly one of the most artistic, thought provoking directors working today. I’ve yet to see “Pi”, but “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Fountain”, and “The Wrestler” are each excellent films, and well worth checking out if you haven’t already. This movie is certainly no exception. It’s suspenseful, engrossing, occasionally erotic, and ultimately astonishing. It’s loaded with symbolism and thematically rich. He gets amazing work out of everyone involved, and spins the camera around the copius amounts of ballet in the film as if it were a participant itself in the dance.
A++ Undeniable Classic.