Darren Aronofsky has made film history. The gripping and striking Black Swan is art in its best form. Mixing the mediums of dance and film he has created a movie with mass appeal. The psychological thriller is an innovative piece of work, based upon a subject matter that many would shun from. Ignorance is not so blissful in this case; to make a judgement on the quality of the film merely on the facts that it is an exploration of ballet would be a rather abrupt decision to make.
The film is based upon the life of a young Nina, a secretive woman who seems a little too dependent on her mother for comfort. Natalie Portman plays this vulnerable role. The plot is based upon a production of Swan Lake. The prestigious New York City ballet company requires a ballerina to be cast as both the main and separate roles of the Swan Queen. There is a theme of contrast, the pure and delicate white swan in comparison to the seductive black swan.
Nina an adamant and skilled ballerina is desperate for the role, as she has put many years of hard work into the company and needs her break. She conflicts with the confident and whimsical Lily (Mila Kunis), who also wishes to claim the role. Both girls represent the different personalities required to play the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. Nina in graceful desperation is perfect for the white swan and Lily fierce and hard-edged an image of the black.
Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), the director of the production appears to be a sexual deviant. He presents himself to Nina and makes it evident she must compete and open up to the role of the black swan if she wished to succeed. After a passionate confrontation with Nina, he makes attempts to tarnish her virginal stature and on failure tells her to explore herself. This is the awakening for Nina and she begins to find a darker side to her personality.
The movie makes an apparent and real reflection of the trails of being a competent ballerina. The film opens us up to a world full of gruelling and painful training sessions, where women’s feet appear distorted and crushed. A world that demands one must be of perfection in body, mind and performance. There is an exploration into eating disorders, self-harm and mental instability. Reflecting that to make it in such a world, you must give everything of yourself.
We see Nina in her home environment and begin to understand why she is in such a frail state. She is mollycoddled by an overbearing mother. This over protective nature has left Nina in a state of flux. She is expected of highly by her mother, a failed ballerina due to her pregnancy of Nina. As Nina begins to find herself we soon see numerous domestic tensions of what appears to be the behaviours of something expected from a young teenager.
On succession of achieving the role Nina is presented to her new glitzy world. This is much to the distress of her predecessor Beth (Winona Ryder), who in turn strikes fears into the vulnerable Nina and is a living example of how both girls are just tools of the trade.
As Nina progresses it becomes apparent that she is a wavering psychotic state. She presents numerous delusions and hallucinate episodes. Her paranoia progresses at the bold Lily. The retorts of Thomas play in her mind, she begins to change and let go of her perfectionist attitude.
As the plot progresses Lily approaches Nina at her family home, much to the dismay of her Nina’s mother. The duo spend the night out and dabble with drugs, on return Nina has an elaborate argument with her mother, resulting in the girls locking themselves in Nina’s room. They engage sexually and on awakening finds Lily absent. Nina rushes to the company and on arrival is furious in finding Lily acting as her role. She continues picking fun at Nina for what she says was a fantasy sexual engagement.
The night before the first performance we see Nina vigorously continue to perfect her routine for performance. Her mentality worsens and she is faced with severe hallucinations, on believing to see Lily and Thomas intimately she flees. As she arrives home her body begins to distort and she begins to form as animalistic swan. On fear of her delusions she knocks herself out upon her bedpost. As she awakens her mother’s controlling nature continues, she states that she has contacted the company and that Nina will remain absent from the opening performance. Nina is enraged and violently removes herself from the home, rushing to the performance and immediately beginning preparations.
The production is constructed of four acts each showing the detailed changes of the Swan Queen. Nina’s hallucinations continue to play tricks on her resulting in drastic consequences. These remaining minutes are Nina’s epiphany. She concludes whispering softly, “I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect,”
Swan Lake surprises down to the last few seconds, the film is truly a marvel to watch. The actors perfect their roles and the amount of dedication they were enforced is evident. It appears that Portman and Kunis are in fact professionals of the art. The film is gripping throughout and presents many moralistic values. Mainly to be whom you are, for if you stray from your identity the results may not be to your advantage.