Black Swan follows the story of Nina, a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her mother Erica who zealously supports her daughter’s professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily, who impresses Leroy as well. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.
Black Swan is director Darren Aronofsky’s follow up to the well received 2008 film ‘The Wrestler’. The two films are similar in that they both centre around the exploration of talented performers and the issues they contend with in the pursuit of excellence in their respective fields. That said they both have an entirely different style of portraying these themes which take place around an entirely different set of circumstances.
Black Swan is a fascinating look into the world of ballet, to someone with minimal knowledge of the art form, I found the depiction of the performances and the work that goes into achieving them to be intriguing and to some degree quite shocking. The film begins as a gritty hard look at the cut throat environment within which the character Nina played by Natalie Portman is performing in. Over the course of the film things shift to more of a psychological drama as the utter dedication of the main characters to their performances becomes increasingly obvious.
Natalie Portman’s performance is every bit as good as is being touted by most critics, her character undergoes a deep transformation as she dramatically explores the various sides of her character and discovers how she needs to evolve as a person in order to achieve perfection in her performance as a ballerina. The remainder of the cast are also well deserving of praise, particularly Vincent Cassel who brings a certain moral ambiguity so effectively to his character as he strives for perfection from his performers.
The progression of the central character throughout the film and they way in which it is depicted will make this a great conversational piece among fans. No doubt there will be different interpretations on certain aspects of the film, particularly fascinating are some of the parallels that can be drawn between the film itself, and the story of Swan Lake which is being produced within the film.
The pacing of the film does experience a lull during the middle, things move along at quite a slow rate after the audience is drawn into the opening act however the final act picks things up as events quickly move towards the finale of the film.
Black Swan depicts a surreal and emotional struggle that talented performers experience and the creative process they undertake when striving for perfection. This is a difficult film to rate, while I didn’t necessarily find it a hugely enjoyable film to watch, there is no doubting the exceptional quality of the filmmaking that has gone into it.
Therefore I’m giving this 4 out of 5 stars, it opens in cinemas around Australian from Thursday 13th January 2011.