Critically acclaimed in several film festivals before its official opening, and five Oscar nominations, Black Swan marks one of the best films released in 2010. The concept for the film had been in the works since the year 2000, and was finally taken to production in the past two years, and the outcome is nothing but an ‘It was worth the wait’ statement. Letting the original concept sink in and find its form organically through all the years it was shelved, was possibly the best choice, other than releasing a poorly developed idea.
It recounts Nina Sayers as a ballet company ballerina, who has not been featured much throughout the seasons, despite her near to perfect controlled techniques. Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s classical composition of ‘The Swan Lake’ is to be put on stage, which revolves around the tale of a girl under a spell who has been turned into a white swan; her only choice to undo it, is by finding true love. She falls in love, but her love interest falls for a darker power of seduction denoted as an opposite (the black swan), while the white realizes is unable to return to her human form, opts for the only escape from her curse, and instead is forced to face death, as it is its only path towards freedom.
‘The Swan Lake’ is to be developed but with a minor twist, the black and white swan from the piece must be played by one sole dancer, to demonstrate duality in the story and give a fresher vision to the traditional performance. Nina instantly becomes interested and is cast for the role, but shares a rivalry with a freer, much edgier dancer, Lily, who has a more remarked attitude and security than that of Nina’s. Nina’s stress over the role starts to be reflected through somatization, and a series of psychotic episodes reflecting inner ideals, which put to question her emotional and mental stability.
The camera angles to shoot the girls and the performances are glinting, and so is the camera work to deliver Portman’s perspective while doing spins. The picture is quite beautiful; it is a major quality craft under the direction of Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky’s literal depictions of Nina’s transformation might seem obviously surreal and unconventional, but are used to convey the degree of change the character is experiencing. One literally witnesses Portman turn into the alleged bird before she fulfills her purposed reality.
Portman and Kunis seem to really have put their all in training for classical ballet, as the general product seems to come out naturally and genuine despite its high structure. Their on-screen interaction is intense and explosive. The script is its only flaw, since it deliberately tries too hard to put across the message of the film. Yes, the conception of Black Swan is ornately abstract, but a much creative write up would have been recommended.
It might not be everyone’s favorite, for its gallant psychological notion of seeking identity and exploring sexuality along the way, as well as the pressure it entails when externalizing expressions of art, but the plot and its unravel are still quite mesmerizing. The black swan metaphor of becoming and finding personal freedom, is brilliant and outstanding, especially the stab at inner conflict the main character puts up with. Natalie Portman is thrillingly compelling in achieving to render an innocent dedicated girl, who then submits herself to a transformation which will exude an adverse side of her which allows her to cross the pressure boundary and really express her inner motives, feelings and passion for her art.
A standing ovation worthy element in the film, is Kunis’ character’s blatant sensual feats shedding a lot of light on what Portman’s role (Nina) really wants to become, and is key to expose Nina, serving as a projected idealization of what Nina really would like to be. The film is lustrous in keeping the unexpected coming.
Intriguingly, upon watching the film, one can relate the premise as a homage to the original composer of ‘The Swan Lake’, Tchaikovsky, for the predominant motif of sexual identity in the film, which may communicate the possible conflict he might have undergone before accepting his sexual nature, something Portman’s character constantly battles internally throughout; Tchaikovsky was reportedly comfortable with proclivities of the same sex, after much speculation and controversy, he was revealed to have been indeed a homosexual.
Black Swan further marks Natalie Portman’s versatility and allows Mila Kunis to open more doors when it comes to her acting and obvious potential to high profile, if not complex roles for films to come. The fact Portman and Kunis trained for months to embody their characters gives the film a huge load of value and makes it more credible, as they became directly attached to the purpose of the film. The Oscar nods and wins are more than well deserved.
Watch the official trailer for Black Swan below!