Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Swan

First and foremost a horror film, and a great one. I was frightened and disturbed. (Poor Charlene, who has an aversion to anything fingernail related had to sit through I-don't-know-how-many nail-related sequences). And like all great horror films it was horrific on many levels. Just like Rosemary's Baby is about the horror of being impregnated by the spawn of Satan, it is also simply about the horror of pregnancy, and the horror of marriage. And while Black Swan is not above sending Natalie Portman's ballerina Nina down a darkened hallway, it's also about the everyday horror of body-issues, pain, and having Barbara Hershey as your mother.

This film is also a retelling of Swan Lake. It's characters are supposed to be big, even clich├ęd, and sometimes that jars with the fact that the film feels so totally grounded in the everyday details of a working ballet company. The cinema verite style worked beautifully. It provided this feeling of intimacy that made the horror more real.

Natalie Portman was terrific. Her dancing looked great to my admittedly untrained eyes, and she conveyed the sense that she was constantly on the verge of either attaining perfection or snapping into two. I also think she sold the complicated emotions of the film, and I believed in her. I've heard some criticisms of the film that it's campy without knowing that it's camp, and I think that that's a misreading. Darren Aronofsky takes the movie seriously because Nina does, even if its archetypes are ridiculous and oversized. The upstart Lily (Mila Kunis) and the over-the-hill Beth (the over-the-top Winona Ryder) are vaguely ridiculous (as is the lecherous ballet director) but they represent genuine threats to Nina in her confined limited world. And that's the world the movie resides in, whether you want to be there or not.

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to mention her my own review, but Barbara Hershey..wow. In a creepy, unsettling movie full of creepy moments, the relationship between Nina and her mother ranks pretty high.

    -Kevin

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