BLACK SWAN, Darren Aronofsky (2010)

Last Saturday, eventually I was able to see this film, thanks to a friend who insisted we should go together. It was a great idea, and luckily we found the typical low profile cinema not very packed, offering the film in its original language version. Thus armed with a bag of popcorn (yes, lately I’m up for that, and gotta say I love it) and a Coke, we were ready to dive into the ballet world depicted by Darren Aronofsky.

Honestly, we were both a bit scared considering all the reviews, too much praising but on the other hand some people despising the acting and comparing it to Verhoeven’s Showgirls (I must admit at some point certain scenes and situations reminded me of that film).

The starting point of this film is quite simple: in times of crisis, the established ballet company director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) has chosen a different version of The Swan Lake, with a new prima ballerina, substituting Beth Macintyre (Wynona Rider), as an attempt to attract more audience and get more private donation to keep the company alive.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is one of the main candidates to get the role of the Swan Queen, her execution as the White Swan is perfect, however she’s not able to get loose and be sensual when performing the Black Swan part.

Eventually she gets the role, causing envy among other colleagues. From this moment, her obsession for achieving perfection will be sickly and insane, affecting her behavior, her relationship with her super protective mother, and creating paranoia focused on the new girl in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), who will become her private Black Swan, a living threat for everything she’s been fighting for, all her life.

No matter the original idea for the plot is simple, Aronofsky recreates his own view of the Swan Lake focusing on the emotional and psychological aspect, translating it into modern life. This is not new, some months ago I commented on M Butterfly, by David Cronenberg, it was exactly the same idea, the Canadian was reflecting his personal idea on Puccini’s opera on the screenplay.  

To be honest I find many parallelisms among Black Swan and Cronenberg, whose main trademark is playing with fiction and reality, mixing them in such a way, sometimes you cannot distinguish what is and what seems to be. Aronofsky applies this increasing the feeling of madness close to the upcoming opening of the Swan Lake. On the other hand, he also uses the taste for the disgusting, especially remarkable nails and fingers, arggggh!!

The transformation of Nina starts as soon as the vacant for the Swan Queen role is announced. All of a sudden turns unfriendly, weird and suspicious. Sweet Nina must be the star, the rest is worthless.  It’s all or nothing, and she will achieve it whatever the obstacles she has to face. As soon as she’s chosen, the struggle against the world  and moreover  herself starts, bringing out the darkest side of the young girl. Seems like evil is inside everyone, hidden and in lethargy, until something or someone awakes it, no matter your self-control or shyness.

The in crescendo rhythm of the film based on the mental derangement of the girl, is amazing. You know everything will collapse at some point and you’re just waiting to see the highest point, and the devastating fall.

As in The Wrestler, Aronofsky includes some scenes as if recorded for a documentary. He really offers a very realistic view of the inner side of the ballet world. The tough rehearsals with hundreds of repetitions, the typical dancing outfits so exclusive of the dancers, in their own fashion, the customizing of the ballet flats…

I felt quite close to all the references done to this world. A former close friend of mine, when we were teens, moved to my city to study dancing properly in a serious company, if it worked out she’s become pro, otherwise she’d give up ballet and focus on her studies.

She was under so much stress, eight hours a day rehearsing, Monday to Saturday, strict diet she was always failing to accomplish and for that reason became bulimic (yes, she was vomiting after meals all the time. Even though she never admitted it, I caught her several times) and consequently her period vanished for almost six months. She lied to everyone being the perfect girl in weekdays, and going crazy on weekends. When I saw the movie, I flipped for it reminded me my friend most time.

Question is, is it worth so much sacrifice? Does so much competition make any sense? My friend tried hard as hell, but eventually she quitted, unable to bear so much pressure, backstabbing and physical pain. I still can’t understand how she managed to last over 10 months in such condition.

Back in the path of the subject again, as usual, Aronofsky’s work with cameras is outstanding. Takes of Nina dancing surrounded by mirrors are incredible, of course there’s a trick, but in visual terms, these are to be praised. After watching several of his movies definitely I can say he’s a master in terms of effectiveness and spectacular images.

In essence, Black Swan is just the story of a girl who just wants to achieve her most desirable dream, but is unable to cope with pressure and loses her mind through the process with fatal consequences, something that can happen to any of us, but this is told in a splendid way, in an apparent atmosphere of seriousness and professionalism which at the end of the day, it’s not such. I reckon this is a film to review in a while, because the more you see it, the more details and features you miss in your first view, will bring out for the pleasure of your senses. Definitely a must see.


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