A delicate and chilling delight
Wow, who knew ballet could be so graphic – and disturbing. Black Swan is not the film you take Mum or Grandma to see because of their deep appreciation for dance – probably better to rent Red Shoes if that’s the case.
But should Ma, God bless her, have a penchant for Brian De Palma or David Lynch-style pyschosexual creep-outs that send a shiver down your spine and mess with your mind, she’s in for a treat.
Natalie Portman is deservedly drawing plenty of attention for her complex performance as Nina, an obsessive ballerina encouraged to engage her darker impulses to nail the prima role in a modernisation of Swan Lake.
A repressed perfectionist, Nina is a natural when channelling the chaste White Swan – but when it comes to the passion and volatility of the Black Swan, her feathers are frigid.
As captivating as Portman is, particularly when Nina begins to loosen up and please (and, um, pleasure) herself, the supreme achievement of Black Swan is director Darren Aronofsky’s ability to conjure legitimate scares and an overarching tone of unease.
Horror directors should take notes.
For me, the Swan Lake narrative that plays out both on stage and in the lives of Nina and her offsider Lily (Mila Kunis), is novel but not compelling, and the constant reinforcement of the characters’ light/dark dichotomy gets a bit tiring.
But when Aronofsky flicks the switch to crazy, Black Swan is a chilling and delicate delight.
As Nina’s controlling, jealous mother, Barbara Hershey is a force of passive-aggressive ghastliness – the term ‘‘ sweet girl’’ is forever sullied – while the bursts of body-horror – ripped fingers, the extreme misuse of a nail file and Nina’s ‘‘fowl’’ metamorphosis – are reminiscent and just as effective as the visual discomfort that punctuated Requiem For a Dream, which I believe still remains Aronofsky’s magnum opus and one of the most horrific movies ever made.
But Black Swan behind.
isn’t too far
Eyes on the prize: A quest for perfection may cost a ballerina her
sanity in Black Swan, requiring a fantastically-fractured performance
from Natalie Portman.