Cinepub


Review: Black Swan by Jamie

There are some things in here which might, possibly be considered spoilers. Hard to tell with a movie like this.

Ballet. It’s a thing that people apparently watch and enjoy. I don’t really understand why. Seems to me that if you don’t know the story of the show you’re going to see then you’re watching a bunch of people dancing and prancing about on a stage. In essence you need to have the show spoiled in order to understand the show. Maybe that works for some people but as a movie fan it doesn’t really make much sense to me.

Still, I’m not gonna say ballet is the worst thing mankind has ever done. That is mime. Seriously, fuck mimes. No, I can see the artistry in it and understand the hard work that people put in in order to become really good at it. I’m sure the same could be said for mimes but I mean it, fuck mimes. I’m assuming that’s why people go to the ballet, to see the craft performed well by people who have worked hard to achieve that level of skill. Maybe the story doesn’t matter at all. Again, these are just my musings on why people watch it. I could be totally wrong and the story could be very important. In fact, it probably is. Hmmm, I just seem to be babbling.

So anyway, ‘Black Swan’, the latest film from Darren Aronofsky, features ballet fairly heavily. It’s the story of a young ballet dancer with an over-bearing mother, a demanding teacher and a talented understudy. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound that great but wait because there’s more. You see this girl, Nina (Natalie Portman), has a problem in that she’s incredibly reserved and always striving for perfection. She wants the lead in the ballet company’s latest production of ‘Swan Lake’ and whilst her reserved nature is perfect for the role of the White Swan she also needs to perform the role of the Black Swan which calls for a far more loose and sensual performance which the director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), doesn’t feel she can pull off. Far more convincing for the role is Lily (Mila Kunis) who is exactly the kind of free spirit that Nina isn’t.

Still Nina gets the part even though she doesn’t seem to make much progress in becoming more wild and carefree. That is until Lily shows up at her door and takes her out for a night of wild abandon, much to the chagrin of Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey). They drink, they screw around, they take drugs, they apparently go back to Nina’s for a bit of girl on girl action… Yes, there’s a scene where Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman. Five pints out of five. Laterz.

Ok, fine. There’s more to the story than that. Basically throughout the entire film there’s an undercurrent of a growing madness within Nina’s mind. It appears as though she’s had mental issues in the past, apparently a self-abuser in the form of scratching herself deeply on her back. This behaviour seems to manifest itself again and with it a new kind of paranoia. Is it the stress of the role playing out in her mind? Is it the dark side of her personality finally trying to break free of years of repression, finding a crack to escape through due to her trying to access it in order to successfully perform the part of the black swan? Whatever it is, the madness begins to show itself by her beginning to believe that she is physically transforming into a black swan, beginning with a rash near her scratch marks that resembles the skin of a bird, eventually growing to a point where she feels as though she’s growing feathers or her legs have bent backwards like those of a swan.

Obviously the film builds up to a massive ending that I won’t spoil here because you should probably go and see this film. I’ll say it’s a very, very good film, hell probably even a great film but it is not a perfect film. Yes, the performances are brilliant although there were times where Natalie Portman’s character was so pathetic that I found her to be a touch annoying and stretching the limits of believability. Still, the dancing is impressive as much as I, a man who knows practically nothing about ballet, can judge such a thing. It’s clear that both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis spent a long fucking time preparing for this role.

The camera work is also incredibly impressive and features a number of techniques that you’ll probably recognise if you saw ‘The Wrestler’ and it’s clear to see that Darren Aronofsky considered making this a companion piece for that film. There are shots that follow the character from behind and there are shots that manage to focus on the character rather than the choreographed performance that they are giving (dancing in Black Swan and wrestling in ‘The Wrestler’. Yes, wrestling is largely choreographed) which gives you a sense of what the character is feeling whilst they do their thing.

And like I said as damn fucking good as the film is, it’s not perfect. There are times when it seems a bit slow, particularly to start of with, though it’s never so bad that you lose interest in what’s going on. There are also times where it pushes the boundaries of weird and yet at the same time doesn’t seem to go far enough. That may seem like a particularly odd sentence but it’s something I can’t really explain unless you’ve seen the movie. There’s also the ending which, without being spoilery, I’ll just say that I wish certain events had played out a little differently.

Finally my biggest issue with this film is a rather personal one so I’ll understand if you don’t agree with me. I have a terrible aversion to anything bad happening to finger or toe nails and fuck if there aren’t like a thousand separate occasions when horrible shit happens to nails in this movie. Ok, I may be over exaggerating that a little bit but still, there are times when I just couldn’t look at the screen. Again, I know it’s entirely my problem but I’m just saying, if you don’t like bad shit happening to nails then there are gonna be a number of times when you look away during this movie, wincing in pain and trying not to throw up.

Despite this, it is a really, really amazing film. I’m not suddenly gonna develop a deep interest in ballet or anything but I did look up black swans on Wikipedia for a bit. And seriously, if you’re a dude don’t let the fact that there’s a lot of ballet in this film. Things get seriously fucked up including a really fucking horrific scene involving Winona Ryder in a hospital. And don’t forget, Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman. Still, I don’t think it’s as good as The Wrestler and I think a lot of that has to do with the main characters. Mickey Rourke’s character in that film is a genuinely likeable character who’s going through a hard time whilst Natalie Portman’s character in this is sometimes just so pathetic that I found it hard to sympathise with her. Overall four pints out of five. Laterz.

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