Year of release: 2010
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Sebastian Stan, Toby Hemingway, Mark Margolis
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
Synopsis:Darren Aronofsky continues his triumphant path, following his fantastic last three films, respectively "Requiem for a Dream", "The Fountain" and "The Wrestler". "Black Swan" symbolizes in a way, a crystallization of his themes, namely the obsessions that people possess and for whom they are willing to sacrifice everything, including their sanity and sense of self.
"Black Swan" follows the story of young Nina Sayers, a beautiful ballerina who is the utmost perfectionist, always training and trying her best to be the absolute perfection in everything she does. Nina gets a spotlight when she is chosen by her company's arrogant and seductive choreographer Thomas, to be the Swan Queen in a new interpretation of Swan Lake. Nina starts pushing herself even harder, since Thomas believes she is far too uptight and sheltered to understand the sensuality and looseness of the Black Swan of the ballet. To further complicate things, Nina feels a new rivalry from another dancer named Lily, who has just arrived from San Francisco and to whom everything just seems to flow effortlessly. To Nina she embodies all that she is not - much to her despair, she starts to believe Lily is trying to destroy her. Her attempts to capture perfection lead to unexpected developments.
Much like "The Wrestler", where Mickey Rourke's character Randy tried to an extreme to force his body to be the entertainer he once was, Natalie Portman's Nina Sayers, goes out of her way to capture the Swan Queen she's portraying. The duality of the character starts reflecting on her personality itself, with Nina progressively altering her behavior, being consumed by a personal ambition and obsession that ultimately consumes her altogether. Nina's mother, who always has lived her life for Nina and who projects all her dreams and frustrations on her daughter, ends up being the distorted mirror of all that she once was - a little girl who never grew up. Darren Aronofsky showcases the darkness that progressively taints Nina's world, from her body bruises and changes, to the events that she witnesses, creating an atmosphere that is progressively tenser as the film progresses. The way he and his wonderful cinematographer Matthew Libatique capture the nuances of Nina's world, serve to emphasize her fears and self doubts. The performances from the film are also fantastic, from Vincent Cassel as the narcissistic Thomas, Mila Kunis who excels as the liberated Lily, the always excellent Barbara Hershey as the overbearing mother and Winona Ryder, who freezes everything as the jilted Beth (it's nice to see her in such a great, yet small role). The film however belongs to Natalie Portman, she carries it with such an amount of immersion, from the technique of the dancer, to the duality of her Nina, in the spurts of menace that erupt from within her, that is a true wonder to see her work in this film. A highlight should also be given to Clint Mansell's soundtrack. An altogether fantastic film!