I finally saw Black Swan tonight with the wife. I was happy to see that Darren Aronofsky continued his long-standing partnership with Clint Mansell for the musical score. Overall, this was an excellent movie. It was clear from the beginning, since I didn’t read any spoilers, that something was going on. The viewer was told that this was all in Nina’s head, but it was hard to truly grasp it because of the violent and disturbing imagery in the hallucinations.
While I was surprised at the choice of ballet, it all made sense once you started to watch it. I’m not a ballet fan, but there’s a grace and beauty in that dance. I’ve been to the ballet when I was younger, but I probably couldn’t appreciate it. In fact, this made me want to go out and see some productions.
The duality that was shown, between the White Swan and the Black Swan, as personified by Natalie Portman and Milka Kunis, reminded me strongly of La double vie de Véronique (1991), a Krzysztof Kieślowski film. The doppelgänger aspect leads to an aspect of horror, but the film is more akin to something in psychological horror than anything else. Nina’s mom is also disturbing, as she is overbearing and possessive of her daughter. She infantilizes her, even though Nina is a grown woman.
Portman portrays Nina admirably. Nina, a high-strung ballet dancer in a NYC company, yearns to become the first ballerina. When Thomas, the director, forcibly retired the 28-year old Beth, played by Winona Ryder, she gets her chance to audition for the role of the Swan Queen. However, Thomas has trouble believing that Nina can dance the part of the black swan, which seems to be personified by the new soloist Lily, played by Mila Kunis.
I was also surprised at Mila Kunis. I never pegged her as a dancer, but she pulls it off. Honestly, I don’t know what the required height is for ballet dancing, but my gut says that Kunis is too short. From what I’ve read, this all depends on the ballet company. Some prefer tall dancers, while others prefer 5’4″-5’5″. There have been professional ballet dancers from the height of 4’10″ to 5’10″.
As the movie progresses, high-strung and fragile Nina starts to fall apart, losing herself in her vivid hallucinations. Slowly, she becomes the black swan, and lashes out when she sees that Lily is trying to get her role. The end performance is the pièce de résistance, as Nina sees herself become the black swan.
The use of the hand held camera definitely transported the viewers into the center of the action. The movie needs to be seen, as you’re most likely not going to see something like this again. Aronofsky has the knack of creating movies that are compelling, visually and story-wise. Still, one of the highlights with this movie is the Clint Mansell soundtrack, which was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, but is radically different.