Director: Darren Aronofsky.
Aronofsky's Oscar winning supposed psychological horror that's central around a ballet dancer who is awarded the lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. It's not strictly suited to the horror genre and you could easily watch the entire film thinking otherwise. It's certainly thrilling, but as a whole, it's a dark, subjective drama of Nina's (Portman) metamorphosis from a naive, innocence girl into dangerous womanhood.
Aronofsky was originally inspired by Dostoyevsky's poem, The Double and wanted to delve into a duality of personality. With this in mind then followed by seeing Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Aronofsky spawned the story of Black Swan, having parallels to both the story and the dual role casting of Swan Lake, about a young and inexperienced girl thrown into a world of elite competitiveness, jealousy and the strive for perfection.
The narrative focuses entirely on Nina, who is chosen to play the dual lead by the manipulative, demanding and highly respected production director Thomas Leroy (Cassel). She's possibly chosen for her fragility, innocence and naivety, fitting the role of the Swan Queen, but it's her inability to play the darker psyche of the Black Swan that set her on a troublesome journey of self-exploration and sexual discovery. We witness her transition which sees her frustrations turn into fearful anger which in turn, increases her spiral into tangled paranoia and desperate madness. There's a constant battle between ambition, meticulous dedication and control versus obsession and creative fluidity in her pursuit of perfection.
Portman is outstanding! Intoxicating, elegant yet stressed and is possibly her most challenging performance to date. She funded her own tough, ballet training for a year prior to the film even getting financed and lost 20lbs in the process. It won her, her first Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, and rightly deserves.
Cassel is brilliant as the manipulative, disapproving sexual predator who's dismissive, demanding demeanour is soul destroying, abusing his position of authority to get what he wants from his stars. Though because of the narrative, his full persona is only suggested leaving the audience to rightly assume what he's capable of.
Kunis is great as the alluring wild child, both alpha-female and subject of Nina's of paranoia. Is she really trying to befriend Nina or sabotage her opportunities so to make way for her own. It's hard to be sure as the story progresses, having difficulty trying to decided what is reality or imagination. Hershey was prefect as the overprotective, pampering mother who also becomes a victim of Nina's paranoia with again, the strong narrative only suggesting what could or might be real.
Aronofsky's style is astonishing, if not nauseating in parts. The sequences and shots are not what you might expect from a ballet performance that again only emphasises the narrative with what feels like hand held camera shots creates a fly-on-wall perspective sometimes causing that nauseous feeling that encapsulates Nina emotions. There's the added challenge of filming with so many mirrors present which must have been incredibly difficult and restrictive but also made way for some very creative shots.
The production of the film is of such a grand scale, or it certainly feels that way and it's hard to believe the film was completed on such a tight budget of a reported $13million as oppose to the hopefully $30million. The costumes, makeup and sets being much more than just that, they were very much apart of her evolution of character, especially the colour in her wardrobe throughout the film. And Clint Mansell's warped and reversed variation of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake really increases the eeriness and tone of the story.
Overall, the film is a grand thriller that's a little more than just stage frightening and many might assume it's going to be boring or not going to be to their liking. But it's a dark, beautiful and captivating, superbly shot and put together with an outstanding performance from Portman.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 9
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for an outstanding production, performance and original piece of cinema.