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After re-watching Darren Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER (2008) it made me want to revisit his follow up BLACK SWAN. I know that this was a polarizing film for many, but I find this tale of an unhinged ballet dancer and her slow dissolve into madness utterly compelling and after seeing it three times am still enchanted by it.
Aspiring ballet ingénue Nina (Natalie Portman) lives under the shadow of her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) who clearly suffers from depression. A trait she has passed along to her only child.
When it is announced that New York City Ballet artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) will mount a new production of “The White Swan” Nina obsesses about getting the lead. She is a true talent from a technical standpoint and perfect for the “White Swan,” but rigid and sexually frigid, she seems unable to let herself go and be fluid. This fluidity is key for the portrayal of the “Black Swan” and Nina will have to dig deep to find her darker side.
She does get the role but it comes with a price and when Lily (Mila Kunis) a new dancer joins the troupe, Nina feels threatened. Her paranoia consumes her and ultimately becomes her fatal flaw.
BLACK SWAN brilliantly shows a woman coming apart at the seams. In Aronofsky’s skilled hands it’s psychologically intense and terrifying as we witness it all from Nina’s point of view who is an unstable and unreliable narrator. It brings to mind Hitchcock and early Brian DePalma.
The film rests on Portman’s more than capable shoulders and it’s one of her finest performances. It’s easy to see how Nina has come to be the way she is and there’s a pitiable tragedy to how her undoing unfolds. The train has already left the station and it is on a collision course. All that’s left is to witness the inevitable wreckage.
Hypnotic and raw, BLACK SWAN has a dreamlike quality that is reminiscent of Dario Argento’s darker fairy tales. For those who like psychological thrillers than I can’t recommend this film enough. Even if you have no interest in ballet (As I don’t) you will still be pulled into this world and captivated by its allure.