It’s not just that some of my all time favorite music is Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake that this movie was absolutely stunning. And it is just that, stunning.
The movie opens with ballet, but if you think you’re in for just a run of the mill dance movie, you are oh so wrong. Unlike it’s predecessors such as The Company, this movie goes beyond ballet, and into the realms of a psychological thriller. I can tell you it’s not for the faint of heart.
The movie, directed by Darren Aronofsky, circles around Natalie Portman, a dedicated ballet dancer who is striving for the part of the Swan Queen in her company’s production of Swan Lake. After she gets it though, is the pressure too much for her? Another dancer joins the company as well, played by Mila Kunis who she believes is out to get her, and her mother is overbearing and frightening. Vincent Cassel plays the company’s director, who pushes Portman to her limits. In addition, a wrecked, drunk and injured Winona Ryder floats around as an old, pushed out of work ballet dancer. She’s good, but flighty and seemingly irrelevant.
The movie is gorgeous–the images are beautiful, Natalie Portman is beautiful, the dancing is gorgeous, as are the costumes and the sets. It’s darkness gives it not only a frightening nature, but also a beautiful chiaroscurro that delights the eye and the mind. Although I am terrified of movies that even hint at being horror, this movie isn’t exactly scary. As it goes, you know it’s being imagined, and although the ending is a twist (which I promise I won’t give away), as you go, it’s not as if you are completely lost in a guessing of what’s happening.
It’s not a perfect film though–I wish they had explored more of the mother’s role, her own psychological issues and her problems. Immediately you know there’s something wrong when a woman in her late 20s is living with her mother when she clearly is making her own salary, and in addition, her room is covered in stuffed animals from her past, pink frills from her adolescent years and music boxes. There’s a scene with a cake which seems a little out of place and awkward, although it’s never addressed and I wish they had.
What I will say is that it reminds me of Fatal Attraction–don’t worry, none of the plot is the same at all, and in tone or spectacle it is not the same, but in the same way that in the film they are huge fans of Madame Butterfly, the opera, and the plot lines follows this basic story giving it an overall and grander meaning, so does Black Swan in it’s essence of Swan Lake. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking comparison, but also one which is perfectly apropos and fitting.
The movie is simply stunning, a definite must-see of the season. Although I had my doubts, they were put aside quickly and definitively.
Overall: Not your typical run of the mill ballet movie, more of a psychological thriller, but absolutely stunning. Portman gives one of her absolute best performances.
Rating: I’m stopping this. I hate ratings and it makes people not read my review. If you want a rating, go to rottentomatoes.com.