Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Black Swan

Black Swan - 108 min - R

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a young reclusive dancer who is a part of a New York Dance Company and she dreams of performing the lead role in the ballet Swan Lake. She is completely dedicated to her art, she lives and breathes dance. She lives with her mother (Barbara Hershey). Her director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to give her the part but tells her that her performance of the white swan is perfect but she needs to also embody the aspects of the black swan. We see Nina work on getting the duality of the two roles for her performances. She struggles with the demanding life of a performer and also the relationship of her overbearing mother. She also has the add pressure of a rivalry with one of the other new dancers Lilly (Mila Kunis) who can easily perform the darker aspects of the swan queen. She idolizes Beth (Winona Ryder) the previous star performer at her dance company and tries to live up to her image as the new star. We see her have a break down as she works herself to death trying to capture and embody the duality of her role. We see her give everything for the performance of her life.

The most captivating thing about this film is how the film makers have used duality as a motif throughout this film. We start getting a sense of the duality when the director introduces the next production they are doing is Swan Lake. During one shot we see Thomas's face in two reflections when he talks about the person who will have to portray the role. The dance who will play the Swan Queen takes on the white swan and the black swan. Nina gets the part but has to get in touch with a dark side of her personality that has never had a chance to evolve. Her dark side shows up in many reflections and interactions she has with other people. Like a shadow that is stalking her we see it in glimpse and quick reflections of her. Many of the practice mirrors show the performers in two halves because of the seam where two mirrors join together. Not to mention many digital effects that give us a glimpse of Nina’s black swan emerging from the shadows and in other people.

Darren Aronofsky does not disappoint in his latest movie. Fans of his earlier works, Requiem for a Dream or PI will enjoy this mind bending journey. We start out seeing Nina as a very immature young woman who has a sheltered life because of her mother and her dedication to her art. She is often shot in a crowd of people all by herself separate from the rest of the dance company. Watching Nina struggle with trying to be something she is not is hard to watch because Natalie brings this character to life; I felt for the character. The filming style is designed to keep you on edge and get more and more engaging as the movie goes on. The camera work is all steady cam, we also have images that are broken down in to close up shots of different parts of the same person. Normally I don’t care for steady cam shots because it has been over used in many films. This is one film where it’s used to keep you just a little bit uncomfortable and it works well to keep you off kilter. The use of reflections in this movie is also one that keeps you guessing if you are seeing the real thing or an illusion. One really great shot is a slow pan across Thomas as he is watching Nina’s audition, and we see her dance across the back ground in the reflection. Great shot and wonderful effects to make such a technical shot seem so natural. I was never emotionally comfortable in this movie; I was so connected with the actors from the start. I felt the pressures of the main character and was genuinely concerned for her wellbeing. This is a wonderful film, if you are into Physiological journey movies this is a must see.

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