“Black Swan” a dark take on ballet


By Wesley Emblidge

If one had to compare “Black Swan” the new film from Darren Aronofsky, to any other film, they would draw a blank. Even Aronofskys previous film, “The Wrestler,” is miles away from this movie. The story follows a fantastic performance by Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballet dancer, who is given the chance to be the lead in her company’s production of “Swan Lake.” Nina, who lives with her mother, is a very fragile and psychologically unstable being due to the stresses of life she leads as a dancer. As the pressure of the role grows, so do her hallucinations about the world around her. She begins imagining herself getting injured, having sexual relationships with other members of the company and eventually, turning into a swan.

It is difficult to pick a single highlight of the film. Performances are excellent all around, except maybe from Mila Kunis, who plays a rival dancer, Lily. It might just be her lackluster previous roles, but she is far from believable. They manner in which Kunis delivers her lines feels forced and rehearsed, unlike a normal conversation would be.  In the film, when Portman confronts Kunis regarding her informing the company director of Portman’s instability, Kunis sarcastically addresses her as “your highness.” Instantly the audience is pulled out of the film and thinks “Uh…that was a bit cheesy.” However, aside from Kunis, all the actors do great work. From Vincent Cassel, who is just known as the French guy who break-danced in Oceans 12, to Winona Rider, who although is probably the second-largest star in the film, has a very small but great part as the dancer Portman replaces. However, it’s not just the actors that make this film.1`

“Black Swan” is the most original film idea in years. Even something as original as “Inception” can have it’s basic idea found in old Disney comics (no joke, Donald Duck goes into other ducks’ dreams and steals their secrets). Aronofsky started with an idea back in 2000 for a film about theater actors being haunted by their doubles. The inspiration for making the story about a ballet dancer came from two sources. As an adult, Aronofskys sister began to study ballet in New York, which influenced him greatly. His second insight came from seeing Swan Lake (the ballet which “Black Swan” is based upon) numerous times.

After completing “The Wrestler” Aronofsky recruited the people behind that screenplay to pen “Black Swan.” They did a fantastic job, blending together a beautiful ballet movie, a psychological thriller, a horror film and they even infuse some comedy from Cassels’ and Kunis’ characters. They humor feels out of place at times, but overall it helps lighten the theater a bit admits a bleak story.

“Black Swan” may well be the best film of 2010. The execution is flawless and even with Kunis’ substandard performance; it is a marvel of a film. However, not everyone will find it enjoyable. It is very dark and the gore gets pretty intense, such as when Portman rips a strip of skin off the length of her finer. Even with violence, “Black Swan” displays a fantastic performance from Portman, outstanding directing from Aronofsky and an exceptional script from writers Mark Heyman, Andrew Heinz and John McLaughlin.

Written by Wesley Emblidge. This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue.