In Darren Aronofskys’ Black Swan Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballerina that explores the dark emotions and feelings buried deep within her soul. She is dedicated and hard working. Day and night she practices her dance moves over and over again. She twirls on her feet until they are bruised and cut up. She strives to be perfect so that she can get the role of the Swan Queen in her ballet companies’ production of Swan Lake.
However she finds out that getting the moves right isn’t enough. That she needs to embrace her dark seductive side. Nina scratches and tears, at her pampered, non-aggressive spirit, and it eventually leads to her downfall.
This is Portman’s most emotionally charged and complex role she’s done to date. She pours as much heart and sole into the role as Nina does in dancing. She begins as a sweet and kind girl but then is pushed too far. As the film progresses and Nina goes down that road of no return Portman’s performance gains more and more momentum.
To say that Black Swan is weird is a great understatement. One word can’t describe its nature. Working with a script by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John Mclaughlin Aronofsky has created a dark, twisted fantasy, a mad house. As Nina puts more and more pressure upon herself the stranger the movie gets. She has multiple hallucinations, peculiar rashes all over her body, and has sexual encounters with a fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) and the artistic director (played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel.) All turning her into something she never wanted to be.
One minute the film is calm, just a scene of two characters having a conversation but then it has sudden bursts of wild, trippy energy with composer Clint Mansells haunting soundtrack blasting in the background. Is it real, is it a dream, it’s difficult to know.
The directing by Aronofsly is absolutely beautiful. Every shot is glossed over in a blackish tint, giving us a cold and uncomfortable feeling. The dance sequences were graceful and full of life because Aronofsky keeps the camera up close to the dancers, making us feel the same intimacy that they are.
In the traditional story telling sense, Nina is, seen as the protagonist. You want her to succeed, and be adored by fans. Meanwhile Lily is seen as the antagonist. She has an untamed and seductive personality. Though Black Swan is much more complicated. No one in the movie is strictly good or bad; all the characters have their moments in both. Nina and Lily aren’t just rivals but instead have a bizarre, erotic friendship.
Nina’s true rival is her self. Trying to fight that jealous, shadowed persona trapped in her body. Fighting that human urge, that you will do anything to be better than someone else. In one scene her, over barring mother asks “what happened to the sweet girl I knew?” and Nina responds, “she’s gone!”
This isn’t the first movie Arronofsky has done dealing with tragedy. His previous film The Wrestler told the story of washed up wrestler (Mickey Rourke) and before that Requiem for a Dream about four people going nowhere on a road of drugs.
All three of these films deal with misfortune as well as ones pursuit of happiness. Black Swan begins on a relatively low note and as the movie progresses continues to spiral down into sadness and despair. Though, in the end Nina does obtain what she thinks is happiness, but for a price.