Sean K. Cureton

Black Swan

In Movie Reviews: 2010 on December 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
3 ½ out of 4 stars

The opening shots of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan features actress Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, a beautiful young ballerina, performing as the Swan Queen in the classic ballet “Swan Lake.” These opening shots are striking, in that they seem to evoke the emotions and themes of the rest of the film in a matter of minutes through the use of minimal lighting, and the contrast between Nina and her co-star, a large black male swan, of a monstrous quality. Both white and black, or fragility and power, seem to emanate in this opening scene, and the rest of the film.

Throughout the film, black and white colors are used to heighten the contrast evoked by the first scene, and to strengthen this contrast’s importance in relation to Nina. The film focuses on a production of “Swan Lake,” where Nina is cast as the Swan Queen, and is ultimately overtaken by the role and her need for perfection within it. The way in which Aronofsky is able to show Nina, in both her beauty and her madness, is both beautiful and horrifying. As Nina becomes more and more obsessed with the role, and starts to lose more and more of her grip on reality, the things Nina sees and thinks become increasingly disturbing, until the point where Nina is completely devoured by the production.

Beyond Aronofsky’s own directorial brilliance, this film also shines because of every actor in it. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career as a young woman having a traumatic psychological breakdown. Mila Kunis makes an unexpectedly brilliant turn as the rival dancer Lily, who may or may not be as dangerous as Nina thinks she is. Beyond that, Barbara Hershey plays the overbearing mother exceptionally well, Vincent Cassel is effectively disgusting as the choreographer, and Winona Ryder makes a surprise appearance as ex-dancer Beth Macintyre.

In summary, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is one of the best films of this holiday season and this year. Come Oscar time, there is no doubt that this film will be in the running for more than one award. With a Golden Globe nomination already, Natalie Portman has without a doubt given her most Oscar worthy performance, and has again proved herself to be one of the best actresses working in Hollywood today. With its startling imagery and spot on performances, it would be a grave mistake to miss seeing Black Swan.

  1. It’s on my to-see list!


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