Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau, Janet Montgomery, Sebastian Stan, Toby Hemingway, Sergio Torrado
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Expectations: Very High. I don’t know why really, I never even saw the trailer. I’ve just got a feeling.
1 Swan Lake
1/2 Tbsp. Mind-Fuck
Mix well. Serve at room temperature immediately.
All kidding aside, Black Swan is easily one of the top American films of the year. It’s definitely one that will split audiences, with some reveling in the glorious mystery of it all and others wondering when the arthouse invaded their local multiplex. Whichever side of the fence you find yourself on, one thing is certain. Black Swan is sure to get many highly coveted nominations during awards season while actually being good enough to warrant receiving them. Imagine that.
“Wrestling some consider the lowest art—if they would even call it art—and ballet some people consider the highest art. But what was amazing to me was how similar the performers in both of these worlds are. They both make incredible use of their bodies to express themselves.”
In this way, the trashy elements of Black Swan are absolutely necessary to the success of the film. Portman plays a sexually repressed girl who must tap into her sexuality in order to properly dance the part of the Black Swan. As she struggles to wrap her head around what is needed of her in order to pull it off, the audience struggles to figure out what exactly is going on around her and where the film is heading. Brief, subtle glimpses of strange things foreshadow what is to come, but initially they go by so fast that you immediately question if you actually saw what you thought you saw. Just when you convince yourself that it was your imagination, something else pops up. This is very reminiscent of Dario Argento’s obsession with memory and presenting his films in such a structure that the main character and viewer are questioning their memory of something seen early in the film. Along with the dance school vibe of Suspiria, it’s pretty clear to see that somebody enjoys themselves some Argento.
As a horror movie, Black Swan is incredibly taut and successful. I had more scares, jumps and squirm-in-my-seat moments within the runtime of this film than I’ve had in the last few years of horror films combined. Like a snowball gaining speed down a hill, the film gets off to a slow start but eventually picks up a full head of steam as it assaults you from all sides. Not only is the final act jarring in its subject matter, but its pace is so much quicker than the rest of the film that you literally have little time to gain your footing before the rug is pulled out from under you once again. In these tense moments the music swells, with the original score by Clint Mansell seamlessly weaving in and out of the music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. It’s done incredibly well and works wonders at heightening the frightening mood created by Aronofsky’s visuals.
Black Swan is a great movie, made better by careful thought and intense discussion after seeing it. If a modern horror movie ever had a shot at Best Picture, this is it. Highly recommended.