Just a few months ago I watched the outstanding and widely commended “Inception” by Christopher Nolan. Just as I was getting my head wrapped around the idea of the top falling or standing (If you can recall this was the final frame in the movie) in the last scene of “Inception”, director Darren Aronofsky gives us the debatable “Black Swan.”
“We all know the story; virgin girl pure and sweet trapped in the body of a swan, she desires freedom but only true love can break the spell, her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince, but before it can declare its love, the lustful twin, the black swan tricks and seduces him, devastated, the white swan leaps of a cliff killing herself and in death finds freedom.” Thomas Leroy’s’ (Vincent Cassel) entrance into the “Black Swan” with the above quote instantaneously fixated him as the dominant male Director/Choreographer/Artistic director (In keeping this review shorter I will merely use the phrase director hereon) of the New York Ballet Company. This was for me the obviously much needed point of constant in the ever twisted tale of the “Black Swan”. Cassel, who does not have many a noteworthy performances to his name, surprised me with his performance as Thomas. The character of Thomas is one that can be easily misinterpreted. One could say that he is the director of the New York Ballet Company who seduces his ballerinas, especially considering the conversations exchanged between Beth and Nina following the Gala announcement of the opening of Swan Lake in the next season. Furthermore also he could be considered as an individual who has controversial methods of extracting and enhancing the talents of his ballerinas. This is entirely debatable; however I would prefer to follow through with the latter. The growth of Thomas on Nina throughout the story clearly clarifies why I see him as a director with a different approach. He teaches her, he shows her, he challenges her, he abuses her and irrespective of the finale he achieves the perfection through Nina.
A ballerina is a highly disciplined performer who through years of eager dedication, hard work and perseverance gains her ability of dance. The graceful movements, the detailed postures, the technique and the execution are few areas of their expertise. Now surely Portman has trained herself tirelessly to achieve even for second (of course it’s much more than a second) the perfection of being a ballerina in her portrayal of Nina. This factor alone deserves recognition for a dedication from an actress. However Natalie Portman took her time to grow on me. In fact I had to watch the movie twice just to understand her version and her own creative portrayal of Nina Sayers. Her expressionless face right from the beginning of the movie at times made me lose interest in her character. Why was this? There has to be variety in a portrayal. Even Nina Sayers cannot be that bland. I agree that it is a horror movie (Debatable yet again) but was it a required monotony. Aronofsky approaches the movie at a sluggish pace; this is one of the reasons for her monotonous expression. However as the protagonist and also as the only actress to be in every single scene of the movie, Aronofsky and Portman had ample space to do a better job.
With this being said, I would like to for a moment focus on an unavoidable fact. The Academy Award for Best Actress in her portrayal of Nina Sayer. She slowed things down, she bored me a bit, but the final outcome of the Swan Queen Nina Sayers deserves that award.
It would not be just if I wrap this up without discussing Aronofsky. Symbolism – this is a strong point in the movie that requires attention. Aronofsky –You are a genius. I enjoyed and I appreciated every single moment he played with colors of black and white. It is very well thought through and also in line with the gist of tale of the “Swan Lake”. Sayers who was always in white resembling the pure, kind hearted, innocent girl she initially portrayed to be. Lily (Mila Kunis) who was always in her black attire who symbolized evil; although this too is debatable (there’s that word again) since she seems to be the only one who shows some concern for Sayers throughout the movie. I don’t mean to confuse you; however I feel that Aronofsky through Lily and her darkness tries to show the audience a reflection of the darker twin who resides within Nina. Yet again debatable!
We have all watched Tom and Jerry? Of course we have. Just like Jerry being drawn towards the scent of cheese and lands smack in the middle of a whirlwind of trouble, I was caught in a spell within the music of Clint Mansell and his Original Score and I was drawn deep into the movie right from the initial scene of Sayers dream.
Passing a verdict on this movie with all the mixed signals that are running through my mind is very painful. For starters, I am entirely disappointed with the overrating given via IMDB (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the world” suffered in my eyes purely due to this factor). That being said, this script has failed to reach its true potential, and I agree that the movie has made its way this far just purely based on the actress and the effects in the finale. Aronofsky was wise with the choice of cast as they were successful and confident in the executions. Whilst the movie stands out in terms of individual strengths within the team, to me it failed as a unit and falls into an average category make. The publicity it has received is entirely misdirected and is not an actual measure with comparison to the overall success of the movie. To me it isn’t a surprise she didn’t grab Best Picture at the Oscars. Once again; I would like to remind you all, unlike most movies I have watched in the recent past, this production is thoroughly debatable.
Title: Black Swan
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis & Vincent Cassel
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Rated: R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.