Black Swan, Natalie Portman

<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>

Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassell, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey.

Based on Tchaikovsky’s ballet about a princess turned into a swan by a sorcerer’s curse that can only be broken by her one true love, if her evil twin the black swan lets him, the film has nothing to do with romance. It’s actually a horror movie.

Natalie Portman, pregnant and all, won the Best Actress Award for Black Swan at the Oscar’s this week and she definitely deserved it. The Oscars love women who play psychos (Kathy Bates won for Misery, Glenn Close was nominated for Fatal Attraction) or change their appearance (usually from beautiful to ugly). In Black Swan, Portman plays Nina Sayers, a ballerina competing to be the star (Swan Queen and her alter-ego the Black Swan) of her company’s production of Swan Lake. She battles the other not so lady-like ballerinas, her lascivious instructor Thomas (Cassell), her overbearing and also mentally-off mother (Hershey) and her own inner demons (only vague references to where those come from).

Thomas wants Nina to overcome her lack of confidence and break loose. He tries to inspire her with sexual advances even telling her to touch herself, which she does (censors have left some bits intact). But her self-destructive alter-ego, her own Black Swan at it were, doesn’t want young Nina to shine. Nina sees herself in others, at times as someone else in a mirror staring her down and at times as someone scratching her till she bleeds. For effect, director Aronofsky (Requiem For A Dream) uses visual effects to create the illusion of a demon within Nina, trying to break out and perchance give her the chance at perfection she so longs for.

Music by Clint Mansell adds to the eeriness and drama of the horrific events in the film. There are scenes played out that will send a chill down your spine but then you realise later they are but figments of Nina’s psychosis. Or are they the demon’s work?

I have to admit though there are times during the film you’ll wonder what the hell is going on. Where is the motivation or the reasoning behind all the madness on display? There’s no background information except for the domineering mother to explain Nina’s hallucinations and violent tendencies. So you may find it a bit boggling.

Mila Kunis as Lily, the new entrant to the company is deliciously sexy and bubbly thus balancing out a somewhat crazy screenplay with a dose of humour and sassiness. More of her would have been nice.

Black Swan takes something inherently beautiful (ballet) and innocent (swans) and turns it on its head. It’s sort of like taking clowns that kill (I know people who are scared to death of them) or unicorns that eat puppies. And in that paradox is where this film gets its unique albeit macabre charm.

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