2 1/2 StarsBlack Swan proves once again that ‘descent into madness’ films are some of the simplest to make. Technically Aronofsky can create scenes that are perfect, they seem to embody unease, disgust, sexual tension, danger, anger, emptiness and fear all together at the same time. It’s really quite incredible to watch, right down to every little detail. Unfortunately as the main character begins to seriously unravel, so does the film.
Natalie Portman gives a tremendous performance as Nina, a ballerina with some severe personality issues. Mila Kunis is great as Lily, the new dancer in the company. Lily is Nina’s polar opposite, something Nina picks up on and plays up to great effect. Vincent Cassel is very creepy as Thomas Leroy, the director of the ballet. He tries to break Nina out of her shell, but pushes a little to hard for her already fragile psyche.
As the title suggest this film is about the ballet Swan Lake. While there is a lot of dancing on the screen it is very well shot and worked into the story as an integral part. This movie is garnering massive attention based on the intense sexual scenes of masturbation and girl on girl action. These scenes fit in well with the story, although Portman’s first masturbation scene seems to be more for the audience and a laugh than anything else. It’s the last act, Nina’s transformation and final descent into madness that ruins what could have been a truly disturbing film. The over use of CG lends to scenes that aren’t as shocking as they were intended to be. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is stark and frightening; a perfect compliment to Portman’s performance. The score is ominous, strong and well used. Of course a lot of it is well known, tried and tested excerpts from the ballet itself. All in all Aronofsky and writer’s Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin rely a little too much on the classic insanity gotcha ‘did that just happen? – wait, yes it did – oh wait, no it didn’t’. David Lynch made a much better version of this without the ballet dancing as Mulholland Drive. Worth seeing, but only once.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel