Black Swan (2010)
Starting his journey with Pi, Darren Aronofsky has made himself the auteur of artistic cinema with each of his film dealing with a central theme of obsession and so far has done a terrific job. And this time, Aronofsky brings the same destructive theme of obsession into the world of ballet dancing and delivers a knockout, once again. Ingeniously balancing beauty & horror from start to finish, Black Swan is a harrowing depiction of a passion turning into an obsession, which sets in motion a chain of events that eventually results in complete self-destruction. An insane piece of cinematic art, this psychosexual thriller, apart from being one of the best films of its year, is also Darren Aronofsky’s finest work since his 2000 manic Requiem for a Dream.
Black Swan tells the story of Nina Seyers, a highly skilled ballet dancer, who is chosen as the ballerina for her ballet company’s next play ‘Swan Lake’. Although she is perfect for the role of the delicate & innocent White Swan, Nina fails to convincingly pull off the personality that is required for the sly & sensual Black Swan. Enters Lily, a new ballet dancer, who isn’t as technically sound as Nina but is the perfect personification of the Black Swan character which impresses Thomas, the ballet director, very much. As the two develop a twisting friendship & compete for the coveted part of Swan queen, Nina begins to lose all grips on her sanity when she becomes more & more obsessed with Black Swan and ultimately ends up discovering a dark side of herself which eventually becomes her path to self-destruction.
Darren Aronofsky is inarguably one of the most respected & talented directors of the current era and with Black Swan, he recreates the winning magic of his previous feature, The Wrestler, except that this time his direction feels much more artistic & complete. Crafted with meticulous care, beautifully written & precisely executed, Black Swan is as much a winner in its technical aspects as it is in narration. Art direction & cinematography creates & captures the ballet environment in an eerie yet delightful manner. Editing does a brilliant job in placing the film’s symbolisms at precise places & key moments. Clint Mansell has once again composed a brilliant piece of music for Aronofsky’s film that is intensely strong & haunting and even though it is based on an existing ballet score, the soundtrack of Black Swan remains very original & faithful to the plot of this film.
Coming to the performances, Black Swan features an ensemble cast of Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey & Winona Ryder and under the supervision of Darren Aronofsky, every one of them has done a fabulous job. Natalie Portman delivers an absolutely mystifying performance as Nina, which not only goes down as the finest work of her career so far but also as the best performance of its year. Mila Kunis gives a career breakthrough performance as Lily & was absolutely seductive in her supporting but very vital role. Vincent Cassel plays the ballet director Thomas & carried his manipulative character with fine subtlety. Barbara Hershey plays Erica, Nina’s overbearing mother, who maintains a strong control over her daughter’s life and Winona Ryder is present in the film only for a short while as Beth, a former ballerina, who was forced into retirement by Thomas.
Overall, Black Swan is a bizarre, beautiful & bewildering study of madness and a thrilling piece of aesthetic filmmaking. It is a tragic tale of striving for perfection & how sometimes it backfires, resulting in terrible consequences. And still, this isn’t a movie that is going to appease every viewer. The two halves of this film are as different as the personalities of the White & Black Swans. The first half shows us the calm & repressed life of Nina while the second half deals with a much darker & disturbing transformation that she undergoes and as the movie progresses, we do nothing but watch in horror as the story of Swan Lake slowly becomes the story of Nina. Although Black Swan isn’t an easy sit for everyone, there is no denying that it’s one of the best offerings of its genre & also one of the most fulfilling cinematic experiences in recent times, viscerally or intellectually. A must for fans of Darren Aronofsky, a must for fans of psychological thrillers & a must for everyone who appreciates great cinema.