By now, we can all appreciate that when you watch a Darren Aronofsky film, you won’t leave the film feeling the same as you entered it, yeah? This was the case when I watched Black Swan, a film about ballet. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a film about ballet would be bloody boring. However, then you’d be quickly unforgiven for thinking a film from Aronofsky (bar Noah) would be boring, because it bloody well ain’t, son.
That being said, the first half hour were pretty uneventful, and unnerving for all the wrong reasons. Natalie Portman, as leading wo-manchild Nina Sayers, was really quiet and just a bit weird. I feel equally that this was both the filmmaker’s intention and an accident. If it was the filmmaker’s intention, well done, I guess. If it was an accident, then it was one on the part of the actress, who somehow won an Oscar for the role. Around this point, I was struggling to see what all the fuss was about this film, quite unimpressed.
Now, what I’m about to say may be very untrustworthy, especially from a 15-year old’s point of view, but it was around the lesbian sex scene when the film got really good.
I don’t know why, but it’s not the reason you’re thinking, ye dirty bastid.
Though the scene itself was nothing to frown at (I’d give it an 8/10), it served as an earmark to indicate that the rest of the film was absolutely fantastic.
You know when I snarkily said “somehow” when talking about Portman winning an Oscar for her role, I was only leading you on, weren’t I? Flippin’ ‘ell, I am a joker, in’t I? She really came into her own after this scene as what followed was surreal mindtrip after Nina had been influenced by the darker desires of Lily, played by Mila Kunis, who she believes to be trying to steal her role, wait a minute, have I explained the plot yet? No? damn it. Give us a sec then.
SPOILER ALERT, IT’S LATE PLOT EXPLANATION TIME, BOI.
Black Swan is a film about a sheltered, dedicated ballet dancer (Portman) gaining the lead role in Swan Lake, playing the White and Black Swan (get it ’cause of the title). After her being pushed to pursue her darker side by her instructor, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), her mind snaps and she begins a downward spiral towards perfection, all the while being rivaled by Lily (Kunis). Bloody hell, sorry about the lateness.
YOU’RE GOOD NOW MATEY.
Now that you know the plot, you might wanna give the review a re-read, if you’re lost, that is. No, it’s OK, I’ll wait.
Whether is was seeing this character who, until now, was extremely innocent, still living with her mum, now being an utter rebel, or something else, it had a powerful effect on me as the viewer. That was why Natalie Portman won that Oscar and, I must say, it was some of the absolute best character development I’ve seen in a very long time.
Supporting Portman to great effect, and forming an excellent backbone for the film is Vincent Cassel, as Thomas. The key to his performance was how my reaction to his character shifted throughout the film. At first, I thought he was creepy. ‘Cause he was, mang. He was rubbing her and stuff while they were dancing, it was pretty creepy. However, after a LOT of development, he almost became a sort of mentor, maybe even a father figure. That sounds weird, I can appreciate that. You’re probably thinking “What kind of father figures did YOU have?”. None like that, thanks for asking. Just trust me, it was odd. But good.
Accompanying Cassel in the supporting cast is Mila Kunis as the aforementioned Lily. Her character was also quite oddly motivated. It seems through the eyes of Nina she’s the antagonist, however, when the Nina-filter lifts, she just trying to help her out. I think Lily is the perfect example of how the film’s direction is successful in toying with your mind, not to mention perfectly, almost comfortably, played by Kunis.
Every once in a blue moon, I’ll write about the cinematography and sound design. Wouldyalukatdat? The moon is blue tonight.
On a technical level, this film is close to flawless, as you’d expect from a film of this calibre. The score accompanying the scenes is that of a fairytale-like nature, running parallel to the plot, which I thought was a nice touch. The sharp violin strikes and fantastical feeling really contradicts the camerawork. The camerawork, contrasting the soundtrack quite dramatically, was gritty and realistic, following the trend with Oscar-baiting dramas at the moment, with a lot of uneasy shakiness, emphasising the main character’s psyche.
On top of this, the amount of surreal imagery in the film is staggering. Scenes involving self-mutilation and other lovely themes really were uncomfortable to watch, but were pivotal to the plot and increased the atmosphere and experience tenfold, sometimes even reminding me of The Shining. However, there was also a lot of subliminal imagery in the lighting which I also somehow picked up on, whether it was purposeful or not, it really did make me think, a rare occurance.
Overall, Black Swan is a deserved Oscar winner, be it only performance-wise. It delivers in the psychological thriller genre like a mutha and is chockablock with underlying messages that make it more of a case study than a film, which isn’t a criticism. That being said, however, it does suffer from a lacklustre first act which fails to serve as an indicator for what was to come, which was nail-biting, skin-stripping, feather-growing thriller with an absolutely jaw-dropping finale.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations