Film Review: BLACK SWAN (2010)
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"Black Swan" Movie Review. 8.5/10.
By Todd Murphy. ALL ABOUT MOVIES.NET.
Directed by Darren Afronosky
Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Disturbing, beautiful and deeply psychological with touches of horror thrown in, “Black Swan” is a thrilling story of one ballet dancer’s obsessive quest to perfect her performance in a high profile production of “Swan Lake”.
The words thrilling and scary are not what you would expect to be associated with a film about the ballet, but director Darren Afronosky has composed a beautiful and disturbing story of ballet dancer Nina’s (Portman) obsessive quest to give the perfect performance as both the White Swan and the Black Swan in ballet director Thomas Leroy’s (Cassel) high profile production of Swan Lake. At the heart of this film is the conflict of duality: the white swan is pristine and innocent, while the black swan is sensual and treacherous. Nina has what it takes to be the white swan, being an exceptionally sheltered and innocent girl, obsessed with perfecting her technique. However, she has a battle on her hands to convince Leroy that she can play the black swan who needs to be out of control, sensuous and passionate. After an uncomfortable encounter where Leroy uses ‘sexuality’ to engage a response out of Nina, she scores the lead roles, much to the horror of previous star ballet dancer Beth (Ryder). As Nina continues to delve in to the role, her life becomes a mixture of fantasy and reality, and in essence, she becomes the character she is trying to portray as she has a battle in her own mind with a dark version of herself that keeps appearing in many places in her life. As a study in method acting, this film demonstrates this very clearly, to the point where you might be afraid to approach any actors who use this style of acting. The film in effect becomes very illusory, almost as if we are watching an intense dream/nightmare in Nina’s head. Is it real? Who knows! On this point the film is deliberately ambiguous, which adds layers of complexity and mystery that are engaging to watch. The film also explores the competitive nature between performance artists, particularly the relationship between the lead and his/her understudy. Portman is excellent in the role, and she plays all the feelings of innocence, paranoia, passion, and some times evil to perfection. The sequences involving her black swan character are chilling, bordering on horrific. The supporting cast are likewise excellent, with Mila Kunis providing some light-hearted moments, and Vincent Cassel providing an egotistical and driven character in Leroy that you can imagine would be directing a production like this. “Black Swan” is riveting to watch.
Some of the handheld camera work, particularly in the ballet sequences, seems mis-directed in the sense that you can see the filmmakers are trying to give you the feeling of being in the dance itself, but the camera work seems a little cheap and amateur. Given this story is about the ballet and there are many sequences devoted to it, this is somewhat disappointing. Winona Ryder is somewhat off-key in this film. She does the job in a sense, but given how well the other cast blend in with each other, her voice and performance seem to stick out like a sore thumb and do not complement the rest of the film.
Click here for the full review at All About Movies.net.
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Todd Murphy is a film analyst and staff writer/reviewer for the film and DVD review web site, ALL ABOUT MOVIES.NET.