Even if you dislike ballet, you’re going to love Darren Aronofsky’s new film, “Black Swan.” Simply put, it’s a perfect movie. In this subversive psychological thriller he pulls out all the stops, creating a mind-blowing masterpiece destined to go down in filmmaking history.
Natalie Portman goes dark and gives the performance of a lifetime as Nina, a ballerina sinking into insanity.
Paralleling the conflict of good vs. evil in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” the film documents her descent as she dances the lead. Required to play opposite roles (Black Swan/White Swan), Nina excels at playing the good swan. But autocratic Artistic Director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) finds her too frigid to let loose the evil demanded to dance the bad bird.
Nina, a zealous perfectionist, realizes she must free herself from a plethora of repressions. One of which includes her overbearing, doting mother (Barbara Hershey). Another is sexual, according to Thomas, as he encourages her to explore her body. When a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), joins the troupe, Nina recognizes that she possesses that dangerous side so elusive to her, constituting a threat. Nina obsesses, and the consequences are dire.
Nina’s psychological breakdown is magnificently chronicled through Aronofsky’s incredible camerawork. Exclusively employing a hand-held would not seem advantageous when shooting ballet, but it’s signature Aronofsky — utterly brilliant. His dabbling into the doppelganger of Nina’s fractured psyche is deliciously disturbing. I was reminded of Roman Polanski’s exquisite “Repulsion” while watching “Black Swan.”
The behind-the-scenes brutality of ballet, the artist’s obsessive drive for perfection, and the dark demons that inhabit one’s soul all surface with crystal clarity in “Black Swan.” Aronofsky leaves his audience with a parting shot very similar to the one in “The Wrestler.” You’re left feeling teetering on the edge of a ledge.