directed by darren aronofsky
starring – natalie portman, vincent cassel, mila kunis
released – 11 february 2011
certificate – tbc
despite coming off the back of the huge success of ‘the wrestler’, and having natalie portman in the lead role, darren aronofsky struggled to find the funding for black swan. that would have been a great loss to the art of a director who has proven time and again that he is a worthy investment – his first film ‘p’ was financed by relatives and friends in exchange for shares in the movie.
it would have been a great loss for 2011 had this fallen down the pan as we would have been denied an absorbingly beautiful film.
the story centres on nina (natalie portman), a sprightly young ballerina who is given the opportunity to play the swan queen in the company’s latest performance of swan lake. nina works hard in her craft, she is focussed but only on technique, only on ‘perfection’. When Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) former star of the company retires, the part of the swan queen is made available; it is the role every girl in the company wants. the company is run by the suave and predatory thomas leroy (vincent cassel), he auditions nina but dismisses her for her frigid sensuality. he tells her she can play the ‘white swan’ with ease, but for the part she must be able to transform into the ‘black swan’; she must unlock her passion, her lust, her seduction – she is too much a virgin to play the role. when she tries to persuade him he forces a kiss on her, she bites him – he is intrigued by this violent reaction, and gives her the part.
now as the swan queen she is isolated from all of the girls in the company in order to rehearse alone and unlock her dark side. she battles with the sexuality thomas is trying to open up in her, the imbalance affecting her personality as well as playing tricks on her mind. the self-discovery is painful and torturous; her fear of lust and the vulnerability she experiences whilst attaining her independence is at a high and irrevocable price.
credit is due for portman’s commitment to the role, her ballet is performed wonderfully, and convincingly. aronosky’s confidence as a director, through some stirring dance scenes, is under no question. the only question is, how could anyone consider this wouldn’t have been a film worth funding? if there is a critique it is that black swan is not as subtle or art-house as it seems. it’s a hollywood movie that slips between the lines of horror and thriller. the fact that it is manned by a talented director who doesn’t follow the guidelines of either genre just goes to show it is sometimes about the delivery than the package.