Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan has received a lot of attention since it was released what feels like many moons ago. With countless award nominations on both sides of the Atlantic, it could perhaps be one of the most talked about films of the decade; but is it all style over substance? Let’s find out.
What strikes you immediately is just how beautifully choreographed and styled the film is throughout, with some outstanding cinematography and wonderful set pieces. However, this doesn’t necessarily constitute to a brilliant film and unfortunately, whilst being technically near-perfect; Black Swan falls down in a few key areas for it to be considered flawless.
Natalie Portman stars as troubled ballet dancer (if you hadn’t already guessed) Nina Sayers who dreams of becoming one of the world’s best dancers. This becomes apparent from the off, with a very possessive mother (played very well by Barbara Hershey) who is constantly striving for her to improve on what she has accomplished. The local ballet company, run by a fantastic Vincent Cassel begins a new season with the renowned ballet, Swan Lake. Cue Nina to receive the amazing honour of playing the Swan Queen.
However, it’s not all plain sailing as she tries to throw off the frigid, stiff dancing she has been practicing for years. Whilst this may sound a little dull, on screen it becomes a great treat to watch, thanks partly to Aronofsky’s fantastic cinematography and Portman’s compelling performance. Her acting is so superb that you feel as if you are there with her whilst she is going through the horror of creating the ‘perfect’ dance. What shines through all the doom and gloom is how much soul the film has; many similar movies lose their characters and ultimately the soul because so much attention goes into the finer points of the picture. Thankfully, this is not the case here.
Unfortunately, as with any film, there are a few negative points which detract from the whole experience. Whilst Portman, Cassel and Kunis all have excellent on screen chemistry; it remains difficult for the viewer to differentiate between Nina’s imagination and what is reality; it is definitely a film that needs to be watched, one moment of drifting from its attention will leave you scuppered and lost. This is most annoying, because if it weren’t for this, there would be nothing wrong apart from a very sudden ending.
Overall, Black Swan is a sight to behold because no review can do it justice. Portman’s performance is by far the best part of this very thrilling and exciting film. Yes, it may not be as perfect as all the award nominations make it out to be, but you would be hard pushed to find a more compelling and ultimately more satisfying cinema experience.
3 ½ / 5