Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black Swan

imdb link  Photos

Plot:   Ballet Dancer Nina (Natalie Portman) is the Swan Queen both in her local ballet company, and in her real life struggle with her Mom (Barbara Hershey), the old Prima Dona (Winona Ryder) and with rival ballerina Lily (Mila Kunis).  As the movie plays out, Nina becomes the dark Black Swan more and more. We don't know what is dream sequence, what is psychotic delusion, what is Magic, and what is real life. 

The movie retells the story of Swan Lake, which is based on a Germanic folk tale about enchanted girls who turn into swans. It has battles between the girls and their mothers, elders and with each other for suitors. 

Basically,  Nina is the White Swan and aspiring new Swan Queen, and she fights to break a magic spell by winning a "gentleman's heart", here the heart of ballet director Thomas (Vincent Cassel). She must force the old primary dancer into retirement and fend off her rival Lily, the Black Swan, who tries to impersonate her.


See how long it has taken me to describe the plot, some people will hate this movie for that reason. Read the Swan Lake Wikipedia entry for more info -- it really helps.  

Review: This is a top movie. Don't let the ballet theme fool you. It is really a story with big mythical themes, and you don't need to know much about ballet. The story gets darker near the end like a psychological thriller. 

The movie shows battles between Nina and the old guard and then her peers, as she grows up to be an independent artist. Nina needs to grow up and embrace her 'dark side'. Here this means breaking away from her mother's vision of goodness to become an adult, though it might mean drugs, bloody killing and lesbian sex.

Natalie Portman gives the best performance I have seen in 2010. Really Oscar deserving. Her facial acting when she learns she got the Swan Queen part was a master piece -- deserving of an Oscar by itself. I don't know how much dancing Natalie really did, and how much was a double, but her dancing looks realistic throughout.



I like the interplay between art and life, and how the two twist back and forth.  I like how the Magic/Dream gets stronger and darker as the movie progresses. The movie is not for people who demand linear story telling. 


Everyone likes it when Nina finally turns darker and darker at the end of the film. When she may not really be in control of herself, she is really most in control of everything else.


Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel


Directed by: Darren Aronofsky; Screenplay by Mark Hayman




Rating: 4.0 stars: my favorite for best picture.


More: [Spoiler] The bold art movie ending is just what the movie needed. I choose to believe that Nina lives happily ever after -- whether in heaven or on earth. 


Even More: See my review for Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached.
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