Black Swan - Movie Review
I consider it rare to witness a film so fully consumed by its own sense of raw dissonance, but Black Swan certainly hits the target. The iconic and soothing music by Tchaikovsky clashes violently with the fragmented and tortured soul of a ballerina who in turn projects her own strained psyche against her seemingly pristine environment. It could be argued that she is simply a victim of her surroundings, responding to a career centered fully on perfection yet demanding of spontaneity, playing part in a family relationship that demands intimacy yet in that demand negates its own value. This is someone who is drawn to revolt against what she has become, and it's not an easy process to go through.
The film focuses on Nina, a promising ballerina who takes aim for the central role of Swan Lake. Technically perfect in her technique, she only lacks that certain something that can only be attained by lifetime experiences. At home she is comforted by her mother, who dresses her wounds and tucks her in at night. It's a relationship that is taken so correctly to the point that it becomes terribly wrong. Behind stage she is haunted by another dancer, Lily, who, while lacking what Nina has in her technique, makes up for in spades with her strong personality. Let's also not forget the setting, New York City, which here is captured only in the sparse area on the edge of the tightly composed frames.
Nina is played by Natalie Portman, and I assume little more needs to be said for her performance. This character becomes very much a real person, with something very complicated and troubling lurking just beneath the surface. Her descent is a gradual, yet thoroughly convincing one. Let's also not forget that this film is also directed by Darren Aronofsky, who here somehow manages to combine all that he has learned from Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and The Wrestler into one film. You can probably guess that the ending isn't altogether happy, but there is something else there too.
The film is composed masterfully. Just listen to the sound design, or take notice of some of this editing. Special effects tend to have their problems, but here they seem to sneak their way into the one corner where you least expect it, be it in a painting or something as simple as goosebumps. Of course I did have to ask myself just how many times Natalie Portman needed to unexpectedly turn around in the mirror before it became scary again, but that's a bit of a lame point in the big picture. The whole film is designed for that single pang of anxiety to grow into a throttling hurricane. When it's over, you won't quite find it left without leaving that heavy feeling in your chest. That's just part of why it's so good, and part of why it's so good when it's over.