“I felt it.”
“Perfect. It was perfect”
The 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan, directed by Daren Aronofsky is one of my favorite films in recent memory, as has made it’s case for best film in the 365 movie quest. Natalie Portman stars as Nina, a technically perfect, but emotionally distant ballet dancer with dreams of making the big time. After landing her ideal role, Nina begins to lose control of her life and more importantly her mind.
This is an interesting choice for Aronofsky. His last film, The Wrestler featured an aging wrestler looking for one more shot at glory. This time around, he’s essentially gone the opposite direction and is focused on a young ballerina trying to break out and make a name for her. The similarities between the two films are fairly obvious as both careers are tough physically and both have a troubled family life. In Black Swan, the 28 year old Nina lives with her mother, Erica played wonderfully by Barbara Hershey. What strikes me the most about this performance is I really have a tough time watching the stage mom types. Those shows about the pageant children or hearing stories of parents pushing their child into any type of activity really makes my stomach turn. Hershey here is fantastic as one of these mothers who live through their child. She didn’t get to have the career she wanted because of her pregnancy with Nina, and tell her so. While not exactly on a Mommy Dearest level, the interactions between Nina and Erica really made me believe that this young woman, under this amount of pressure, could easily begin to lose her mind.
One of the faults I heard about the film was regarding the subject matter. Yes it’s ballet and yes that’s not exactly something that I would consider a hobby of mine. The truth of the matter is, the subject matter for me, didn’t matter. Yes I could see the parallels between the dance she was performing and the storyline of the film and I’m not suggesting that the film should have been about a different subject. What I’m saying is even though I’m not a fan of ballet, that had no impact on my enjoyment of the film. Whether it’s due to the script of the direction of Aronofsky, I could have watched these performances in any subject matter. Mila Kunis for example is fantastic in her black swan, sexualized role. For me, Kunis is an actress to watch as she’s proved to be a fantastic comedic performer and now has shown she’s able with the right script to pull off a dramatic role. I only hope to see her in more roles such as this. Speaking of performances, this film and this year in cinema was dominated by Natalie Portman.
Her performance is brilliant, and what makes it so is the first section of the movie. The scenes where she plays the scared, quiet young girl, with a small voice, and an overbearing mother are heartbreaking. It’s because of this performance in the earlier section of the film that the later actions, hallucinations, and other would be out of character scenes are so much more powerful. Watching Portman in this film there are moments of her performances in Beautiful Girls, and The Professional. Her very early, child roles can be seen in her facial expressions and overall sense of innocence. In this film, she’s a real woman, with real doubts, flaws and self esteem issues. She’s not the idealized dream girl from Garden State, and she’s come a long way in this film from being the cute, girl next door, that she so often portrays. “I felt it…Perfect…it was perfect” Yes, Natalie, it certainly was.