Mar 6, 2011

Black Swan

So I finally saw what was one of the most talked about movie for this years Oscars. And true to the recommendations, I wasn't disappointed. Though I admit I haven't seen any of Darren Aronofsky's / Natalie Portman movies. Since its a good movie seen in recent times by me, it very much deserves a review.

[Contains spoilers, if you haven't watched yet, please do go and watch - its well worth it!]

Black Swan is a movie that is driven by the idea of perfection. It is a journey through the psyche of a young ballerinas desperation to achieve perfection which quickly converts into her inexorable slip into madness. Weaved around a devastatingly disturbing performance by Natalie Portman, is a movie that is beautiful and fragile, chaotic and disturbing, intense and sexual, good and evil all at the same time.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a ballerina with the New York City ballet company, lives a regimented lifestyle, completely consumed by dance. She lives with her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a retired ballerina who keeps a strict eye on her daughters professional ambition. When the director of the company, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace his prime ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder) for his new production, the classic "Swan Lake", Nina's life suddenly seems to have one singular goal - to dance the coveted role of the Swan Queen. Complication arrives in the name of Lily (Mila Kunis), a new dancer who seems to the exact opposite of Nina - wild and carefree. The part of the Swan Queen requires someone to play the parts of both the virginal and pure White Swan, as well as its evil twin - the Black Swan who is driven by sensuality. Nina excels at playing the part of the White Swan effortlessly, but the Black Swan requires a wild abandon and passion - embodied by Lily - that the tightly wound Nina is unable to portray. Yet, an incident with the director lands Nina the Swan Queen, and from then on, her life swiftly starts to unravel.


As the movie progresses, the question becomes, not whether Nina would be able to dance the Black Swan - she has mechanically perfected the pirouette and the sauté with extreme discipline - it becomes a question of whether or not she will be able to survive the metamorphosis required for her to become the Black Swan. As her director tells Nina, 'What is the use of all that discipline. Let go. Transcend. Surprise yourself', she has to seek the reckless kind of perfection fuelled by madness and abandon her controlled facade to dance the Black Swan.

Leroy, the dance company's manipulative director believes that Nina would ease up if she were to explore her sexuality, leading her on to experiment with her body for what seems like the first time. Lily in her part, playing the role of the passionate temptress, leads on to some intense sexual moments in the movie. Its a heady mixture, when Nina begins to suspect that Lily is out to steal her part, consumed by emotions she does not understand and starts to let her evil side gain hold. As she nears the opening day, Nina struggles with her dance routines, and starts having schizophrenic hallucinations, rapidly beginning to fall apart.

Natalie Portman drowns herself in the role of this obsessed ballerina, stunning the audience with a stellar performance of Nina's fragility and madness, while pulling off some of the most beautiful dance sequences seen on screen. The strength of Black Swan is in the way it showcases raw physicality side by side with understated subtlety. Portman is delicate and wild in equal measure, sometimes the transition between one and the another so seamless, that the audience doesn't understand she plays which Swan. It takes a destructive transformation to reach the Black Swan, and Portman plays the role of Nina's fall to ecstasy with a power that will give you the goosebumps.

Aronofsky's storytelling skills are praise-worthy and deserve a mention, as he uses simple techniques to create a tense atmosphere - like mere reflections and closed spaces. The special effects used are crude and not smoothly done, reflecting the jagged dimensions of Nina's mind, a world where ugliness and imperfections stand out starkly against everything that is beautiful and perfect. At some of its best moments, Black Swan is chillingly beautiful almost making you a part of Nina's obsession. Rightly touted as one of the best movies of 2010, and worthy of the awards that it has been bestowed with, this movie is definitely a must watch 5/5.

P.S: Natalie Portman looking very very drool-worthy in the movie! :)
Now Playing: Waiting in vain | Annie Lennox


Arnab Majumdar said...

I've only seen two of Aronofsky's films - Black Swan, and The Fountain released in 2006.

If you liked Black Swan, you should definitely watch The Fountain. While Black Swan had it's share of jagged edges, The Fountain has a fragility to it that is strong at the same time, almost like that life harbouring glass sphere that travels through space - but you'll have to watch the film to understand the last part I said.


Anupam Gupta said...

Loved the movie....Especially if you watch it alone at 3 in the night sitting in your's pretty scary...

The cinematography is pretty astute in Black Swan...Leaves haunting images long after the movie is over.

Great review Annie..

P.S. You missed the GOOD parts though...more on that in Bangalore..:)

Meher S B said...

Yeah, I've heard they've removed some explicit scenes. I can't wait to watch this movie.

binu said...

Nice review Annie..It was indeed a stunningly realistic performance by Natalie..Love the movie..

Sadhana. said...

It was alternately disturbing and exhilarating, yus. I watched the movie sitting in the bottom most row of the theater and I must say, it gave me whole new perspective :P

Excellent review! :)

Priyanka Banerjee said...

Okay I havent watched it yet, but what I want to know is, how much of the movie is about dancing? Is it completely dedicated to it or what? I read a mini review somewhere, it didnt really mention the dance scenes :/

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