Sunday, February 6, 2011

Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan 2010
Black Swan, this is probably one of the favourites for the 2010 Oscars for Best Picture. As well as that, Natalie has basically been given the best Female Actor Award (I say that because apparently 'Actress' is politically incorrect, so let's see how that plays). The film itself was excellent, I have not seen Requiem of a Dream, and so this was my first taste of Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is an excellent physiological thriller, dark for the mainstream pond, and is a real surprise. The Hollywood glitter is not present here; instead we get a rustically beautiful tale of madness from one's dedication. It is passionate, daring, ingeniously thought, and at some stages can be cover your face scary; yet despite all of these ingredients brought together to create an instant masterpiece, it does not create the finished product we hoped for. Instead we are left with an experience falling short of all its potential we hope to get.

The plot is quite an interesting one. This is the first Ballerina film I have seen, so this was a completely new experience for me, a film I found remotely similar to this one was Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher. The Piano Teacher was a sadistic and harrowing film, while Black Swan comes nowhere near this sickening level, it does remind you of a sick film though. To say Black Swan was a clean film would be naive, but not as bold as it should have been. It follows Nina (Natalie Portman) as she goes for the part of Queen Swan in the highly prestigious theatre performance of Swan Lake. This Swan Lake has been given a dark twist, and guess what, she gets the part! Nina though still lives with her mother, and is treated as a child, still to let herself free from her nostalgic existents. The director loves her White swan dance, she is perfect at that, but it is her Black Swan role, which she has to let herself go, something she is not used too. Soon she will immerse herself into a physiological nightmare, on a self-destruction run to reach perfection.
The plot is fantastic, complex, respectively melodramatic and original. The idea was great; unfortunately, the execution is where the film lets itself down. Black Swan deals with many of the horror show scares, and does it quite elegantly, but we never seem fully immersed into the horror show. It never fully seems to explain itself, and when the plot comes, we are given an unsatisfying half answer, which in this case was not purposely done. It was unpolished, and the characters were never fully developed, even Portman's motives were not always clear, nor do they become clear. Do not let this criticism put you off; this plot was fantastic, elegantly told with the occasional blood splatter. In fact there are some scenes where I would say this is how you make a decent horror, just a little too rare for it to be a horror.

The acting was for Portman excellent, here we see her at her best. Although she was not exactly a great beforehand, despite what people say she never stood out as she does here. Trying not to sound sexist, rarely does a female actor step so far out the circle, Kathy Bates in Misery was successful at getting rid of the stereotype where a girl is no more than a support for a man. Portman takes off as a main character, and such a bold performance is rare with female actors. I would not say Portman does a flawless performance, but I dare say one of the best fifty female actor performances. The only problems for her act would be lack of development and motivation, we see her strive for this part, but were not really sure why she is trying so desperately. The support cast. Well to be honest they were rather mediocre, but we must remember this is modern mainstream, so the support acting is a cut above the rest. Portman steals the show though, and the other characters really are not that interesting and can be under-developed, the mother for me was just out of place. The director still needs some development as well, after a short time he just seems to fade-out of the spotlight. This film had time to do so as well.


The direction for me was a bit of both spectacular and mediocre. Aronofsky gives us excellent shots; we really live in the Ballet world. The stage shots are fantastic, and the mirror effects were only describable as over-whelming. Then again, in between the glossy sets I was not really impressed. There was a case of the shaky camera, and the really the whole camera work beyond stage sets were average and uninteresting. Many of the aspects of the film did not really fit with the rest of the aesthetics and got uneven. Most of the horror parts were well done, but others just did not fit. He really was a creative director in this film, but certain parts just lacked inspiration.

Now one of the most notable aspects of this film is the rather explicit sexuality. Mainstream films a notorious for throwing movies through their 'Department of Censorship and Propaganda'; Disney would be a major user of this 'company'. This proves Black Swan was made for the sake of creating art, opposed to making money, not to shame anyone, Avatar...
Black Swan combines sexuality with its horror, and sexuality is shown as a dark lust driving the Black Swan, and Nina's wild side. This is why the film is so effective and different, the deep atmosphere it creates, showing sexuality almost as a vent and path to self-destruction. After watching The Room, and the atrocities of sex scenes, this as a fourteen-year-old boy was a godsend (I mean that in an atheist-ish way of course). Best of the entire majority was lesbian, yet it was portrayed so tastefully, you only respect Aronofsky for not giving us filth as a selling point to teenagers, yet effective art.
Despite being put in admirable context, I would not watch this with my parents. If your grandma after years of hiding due to her Agoraphobia and Genophobia decides to go to the cinemas with her grandson, do not choose Black Swan! By all means though take your friends, or even a date, I do not know about you, but I got lucky.

Some of the 'interesting' content.

Overall, Black Swan was a fantastic film and one of the bests of the year, although I believe The Social Network wins over this one hands down. The Social Network was just higher in quality, which is the only way to compare the two. After a second viewing of The Social Network, I can comfortably say that it reigns supreme over all I have seen so far. The King's Speech and 127 Hours are in my sight. Black Swan is a fantastic film, but its level quality is due to great work, but never exceeds excellences. I think the best way to describe it would be we never get a heavy amount of empathy for the characters, and it is lacking a certain amount of substance, which I cannot quite pinpoint.



  1. Great review Jhon. This was my second favorite film of the year after The Social Network

  2. Great Review Jhon, this movie is one of years best. and you should add here some of your old reviews ;D

  3. Fantastic Review Zach, I really need to see this soon

  4. Well I would add more, but I dont really want to spam it and so on, just easier to continue from here. Thanks for the comments.