By: Oberst von Berauscht and Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) will do just about anything to get a lead role at the ballet company where she works.She is encouraged by her loving but overbearing mother Erica, (Barbara Hershey) a retired and mentally broken ballet dancer.When Nina finally is given a chance to stretch her talents as the lead role of Swan Lake by her highly sexual and task-driving director, played excellently by Vincent Cassel, she becomes increasingly unstable in her obsession with achieving perfection.
Darren Aronofsky’s latest opus is a film about ballet in the same way his Requiem for a Dream was about drug addiction, or the way The Wrestler was about professional wrestling.He is less interested in the technical details of these activities than with the physical and psychological impact each one holds on its characters.And in Black Swan, he may have crafted his most nightmarish world yet: a world that exists largely within Natalie Portman’s head.
Her crazy little head
It may be a Hollywood cliché to say that the characters of Darren Aronofsky’s films must confront their inner demons.But unlike a standard Hollywood film, confrontation isn’t where enlightenment is reached.In Black Swan for instance, Nina sees clearly what she is, or rather is becoming numerous times, with no moments of relief.It never seems that she will make an effort to change her fate.Instead she resolves to walk the precipice with spectacular, even vainglorious disdain for reality.You could say that instead of Aronofsky’s films simply reaching a point of catharsis, his characters come to terms with their destructive nature, deciding whether to sink or swim… whether to carry on.
Natalie Portman portrays this character with complexity and real humanity.I must confess that I was poisoned on her early career.
Where’s your 30 pieces of silver now?
With Black Swan however, I saw Nina, not Natalie Portman. This character is like nothing she’s ever done before, and is easily one of the best few performances of the year, if not the best.
A little love is also due Nina’s possible rival and certain temptation Lily, played by Mila Kunis, in a role that is drawing a lot of praise, although I’m not convinced that she’s past playing herself. It just happens that she is perfect for this role.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of Aronofsky’s is his relentless pacing and vision.While there are still a few small things that keep the film from technical perfection (like too many cheap make-you-jump moments) he sweeps you along in a film that just keeps accelerating until it’s highly emotional and exhilarating ending.
His weaving of the classical Black Swan ballet into the whole film is simply stunning, and as the film reached Nina’s performance I was in its clutches like very few films before.Afterwards all I could say is “Bravo, Mr. Aronofsky, Bravo!”
Watch it.The Social Network may be more technically perfect, and 127 Hours more originally executed, but few movies will affect you like this one in 2010.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: whenever Mila Kunis does something seductive
Take a drink: whenever Natalie Portman throws up
Drink a shot: whenever the editing/sound design makes you jump