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Film Reviews

Blood and Feathers: Black Swan

Perfection is something people strive to attain their whole lives. It can destroy and consume. While focusing on perfection in one aspect of life other parts tend to suffer, as in the case in Darren Aronofsky’s latest film “Black Swan”. We are taken on a dark and erotic journey into the depth of one woman’s struggle to maintain her sanity while trying to achieve total perfection.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina in a prestigious New York City company. Her uncompromising director (Vincent Cassel) is looking for a new lead in his production of Swan Lake. The ballet world is a relentlessly competitive milieu. All of the girls gossip about other dancers and landing the lead role is everything. Nina does not have confidence like the others; she often appears fragile and helpless. She is always figured in white and Portman’s gifted performance exudes innocence. She is, effortlessly, the white swan. For Nina, the challenge is to transform into the black swan.

"Am I going crazy?"

We see her daily routine. She goes to the company practices, and comes home to her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey). Their relationship is a strange one. While Nina is capable of caring for herself, her maniacal mother takes control of her every need. Nina’s life is clearly not her own.

Mother Soothes her Daughter

Throughout the movie Nina is surrounded by mirrors. Not only when she dances in the studio but in her daily interactions. She is scrutinized by her instructor and her mother. They reflect their ideas of how she should be onto her. The pressure to be perfect and embrace the darkness inside proves to be too much for Nina. The deeper she descends into the role and embraces her sexuality, the more her reality begins to spiral out of control. To become the black swan, Nina must let herself go, and she’s unsure if she will ever get herself back.

The Black Swan Emerges

Natalie Portman gives an absolutely brave performance as Nina. She exudes innocence and naivety, making it painful to watch her descend into terror. Portman performed all of the dance sequences shown in the movie, training for a year and losing 20 pounds before production began. Her training paid off with a convincing performance. Barbara Hershey and Mila Kunis are wonderful in supporting roles that add emotional depth and wild bravura to the picture. The horror sequences work quite well. They are terrifying and disorientating, aggressively first-person, leaving the audience to wonder what is real. The last 20 minutes are some of the most intense and captivating I have ever seen. Black Swan features stunning cinematography and a gorgeous adapted score of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by frequent Aronofsky collaborator Clint Mansell. Black Swan has a lot to offer. Though in many ways it is similar to Aronofsky’s previous film “The Wrestler” it is his finest moment. Black Swan is one of the most dazzling looks into a downward spiral ever to appear on screen, this is one movie not to miss.

By Marissa Rose 02/24/11

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