Star cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey.
Plot: Natalie Portman is obsessed with becoming the lead ballerina in her dance company. When the opportunity arises, she starts seeing strange things. What happens next?
What’s Good: Performances of Natalie Portman and other actors; the chills that the script provides; the ballet dance sequences.
What’s Bad: The script, which becomes surreal as the film progresses; the ambiguous climax.
Verdict: Black Swan is a masterpiece but will fare poorly in India as it holds appeal only for the elite.
Loo break: Several, but only if you get confused by what is happening on screen.
Watch or Not?: Do not miss it if you are a connoisseur of good cinema. But be prepared for the unexpected.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, Protozoa Pictures and Phoenix Pictures’ Black Swan is the story of a ballerina who gets obsessed with playing the lead character in a ballet.
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a 30-something ballerina in a New York City ballet company. As she aspires to be the lead dancer for her company, Nina’s life revolves around her ballet practice. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), who wants to control each and every aspect of Nina’s life.
Nina’s dance director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), is planning a new ballet, Swan Lake, based on the story of a female trapped in a swan’s body, who ultimately commits suicide. Nina yearns for the lead role in this show and tries really hard to impress Thomas. However, she feels threatened by Lily (Mila Kunis), a new dancer who has just joined the company. Nina is surprised when Thomas picks her to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder).
However, as the practice sessions for Swan Lake begin, Thomas is disappointed by Nina as he requires her to play both, the White Swan and the Black Swan, which are completely opposite characters. Nina, with her technically perfect ballet moves, is able to play the White Swan, but she becomes unnerved and jumpy when she is asked to play the Black Swan also. Moreover, she starts hallucinating and seeing weird things, like scratches on her back and blood coming out of her fingernails. She imagines that Thomas and Lily are having an affair and that the lead roles of the two Swans will be snatched away from her. Even her mother becomes more obsessive about what Nina does and does not do.
One fateful night, before the first full rehearsal, Nina goes out on a drinking spree with Lily, and dreams a weird dream. She visits Beth, who is in the hospital after a deforming accident and has another horrific experience. As the day of the final performance draws close, Nina’s hallucinations keep increasing to the extent that she doesn’t know what is real anymore. What happens next? Is Nina’s dream of performing as the lead ballerina fulfilled? The climax of the film answers these questions.
Story and screenplay – Black Swan Review
Andres Heinz’s story is surreal but emotional at the same time. Nina’s insecurities and her obsession for perfection will resonate with the viewer. Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin’s screenplay masterfully plays with the audience’s minds, keeping them engrossed, yet never revealing the true nature of what is going on with Nina. A few scenes, like the one when Nina is training alone in a mirrored hall and sees her reflection as different from herself, have been excellently executed. The strained relationships between Nina and her mother and between Nina and Thomas are also well done. However, as the film stars getting more and more in the zone of the surreal, the viewer starts wondering what is really happening. The writers provide no clear answers to these questions and that, besides the ambiguous climax, is the biggest drawback of the film. Hence, the film will only appeal to the elite audiences, who will understand and appreciate this sort of cinema.
Star Performances – Black Swan Review
Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance is excellent. She dances with grace and energy and emotes superbly. Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey are very good too. Winona Ryder stands out. Benjamin Millepied, who is also the choreographer of the film, appears briefly on screen as Nina’s co-dancer, David.
Direction and Choreography – Black Swan Review
Darren Aronofsky’s direction is excellent. He extracts wonderful performances from his cast members and successfully maintains the serious tone of the movie. The film, in spite of its unusual story, entertains and also provides many chills. Benjamin Millepied’s choreography of the ballet sequences is beautiful. Clint Mansell’s music supports the director’s vision. Costumes, by Rodarte, are outstanding. Matthew Libatique’s camerawork (Correction: cinematography) is wonderful. Andrew Weisblum’s editing is snappy and takes the story forward. Technically, the film is very good.
The Last Word
All in all, Black Swan will fare poorly at the Indian box-office as it would appeal only to a select class of the elite audience.