Home > Movie Reviews > Black Swan – Orion’s Take

Black Swan – Orion’s Take

Black Swan is a mad dance, terrifying and beautiful.  This is fitting for a film that strives to capture ballet’s wild soul.  Black Swan grabs your attention and doesn’t let go, ever, until the credits roll, and you realize that your legs are cramped from leaning forward, and that the dizzying images that just flashed before your eyes has left you with a major headache.

This is Swan Lake.  The parallels are almost condescendingly obvious.  Natalie Portman is Nina Sayers, a ballet dancer who thirsts for the glory of a leading role, and for the attentions of Thomas Leroy, the director of the company played by a dashing Vincent Cassel.  But there are impediments, issues like her own personality, which lends itself to dancing the White Swan but not the Black.  Issues like her overprotective mother, her own infantilism, and a mysterious doppelganger that is and is not a fellow dancer named Lily (played deviously and sexily by Mila Kunis).  To overcome these issues, to experience the glory of the stage, Nina pushes herself to the edge of madness and beyond into a chasm of fear and dark dreams.

Adequately describing this film is difficult, as the film simulates a nightmare through technical details: we follow behind Nina wherever she goes, the camera very close to her head.  We see glimpses of people from Nina’s view, not our own, and thus restricted feel almost suffocated.  The ballet scenes are beautiful to the point where it hurts, and the only emotional release we are given manifests itself in physical mutilation in the characters.  In one particular case, a bitter dancer takes a nail file and stabs herself in the cheeks with it, over and over again.  In another scene Nina peels the skin on her finger all the way back to the wrist.  Though interesting in contrast with the self-imposed pains of art, this mutilation was anything but subtle.  To be fair, however, this nightmare hardly requires subtlety.  The sense of suffocation, or all-encompassing madness, is atmospheric and unceasing.  Though it is no doubt effective (I was riveted to my seat) it seemed clear to me that such a grinding and inexorable horror only served to tire the audience out.  If the director had thought of relieving the tension briefly at certain points, the madness could have been intensified.

In other areas Black Swan mastered me.  Its portrayals of sexuality, of repressed desire, of seduction, were raw on the screen, potent and fascinating.  The cast was unbelievable: we can glimpse how strong Natalie Portman’s personality is by watching how masterfully she plays Nina, who is weaker than a baby.  Vincent Cassel plays a lecherous director with such charm it is impossible to hate him.  Mila Kunis is the embodiment of passion, of loose and easy seduction as Lily.

Even after I was released from its spell I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  That’s the mark of a great film.

4.5/5 Waffles


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