One hour after watching it and I am still speechless. Can Black Swan compare to Inception? Indeed it can, it raises film making to a level where you are not just a viewer, you are engrossed by it, you feel everything, you fear for the life of the protagonist, you live through her and suffer with her. Why do I compare it to Inception? Because that was this year’s best film, no doubt about it, but just as that, Darren Aronofsky manages to create something so special, so different and so intriguing that nothing can match it.
From the beginning, the film sets a mood that makes the audience feel uncomfortable, ten minutes in and you get scared of what the camera is going to focus on next. Best feeling to describe this is fear, you start to fear that the new scene will go terribly wrong, and it does not… until it does. But did it actually happen? I guess in that sense it resembles a bit American Psycho. Was Bateman a freak who liked to torture women or was it all in his imagination, or just bits were true and the really exaggerated ones were not? That is the exact thought course you take on Black Swan. Does she actually have a skin disease, is it just from scratching, is there something growing underneath her skin? Did anything happen between her and Lily (Mila Kunis), or did she just fantasized (oops, just totally spoiled it for you)? Did Beth actually stab herself in the face? And towards the end, does she transform in Taylor Durden? All these questions just leave the viewer dazzled by the end of the film.
Natalie Portman plays the role of Nina. She is a hard working ballet dancer who does not want anything more than being the Queen Swan in the Swan Lake – the film starting with her dreaming about it. Although she is over 25, she is still living with her mother, who is in charge of her every move, and still treats her like a 12 years old. The mother’s strictness in instilled in everything Nina does. She cannot loosen up, ‘lose herself’, as the artistic director – Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) wants her to, in order to play the role of the black swan in a more sensual way. Here is where Lily’s role becomes primordial, as Thomas shows her as a perfect model for how Nina should dance the part.
There are so many elements that make this film great it is probably difficult to spot all of them after a first view, but I will try to point out the ones that caught my attention.
The fact that Nina’s mother, Erica, a former ballerina herself, never mentions she is a great ballerina, using her words very carefully, saying that she is ‘the most dedicated dancer in the company’, can just be taken as a proof of resentment – somehow, she does not want her daughter to be better than her, as she had to give up on her career when she gave birth to Nina. In the same time, throughout the film, Nina’s inability to relax hints to her present virginity – most probably because of her mother’s control, so when Nina tries to enjoy herself for the first time, she catches herself in time to not wake her mother up, who was in her room. The scene only emphasises that Nina never had the chance to step out of the line, always being under her mother’s supervision.
The fact that she can see herself in other people, or on the street, or in the mirror moving differently, makes it clearer that she is dealing with problems coming from inside of her, it is that reckless personality that wants to get out there, show the world who she really is, but is not given a chance, because Nina has to behave in order to be ‘perfect’. In the same time, her desire to become the black swan transpires through her – THROUGH HER PORES, literally (also, now that’s some cool skin related special effects, Edward – you are dismissed with your sparkly skin… boooooring). The effects used for that are so well done, and Natalie manages to express it so touchingly that it feels so real. It just makes you scream ‘OMG! That must REALLY hurt!’. (I never asked a chicken what it feels like to grow feathers, but I guess it comes naturally to them, it definitely does not feel like it for Nina).
The score by Clint Mansell did not come as a surprise, just as the other scores he did for Aronofsky’s films, it fits the action like a glove, giving goose bumps in the most intense moments – or should I say swan bumps… although Lily’s line could be used to put me off from that – in response to the waiter who is bringing her a cheeseburger and asking her flirtatiously if she has enough cheese she goes: ‘No, but you do!’.
Another thing that made me go ‘That’s genius!’ was the fact that the film itself is written as the Swan Lake, the end being the most obvious. (I shall not go further into that though because I will spoil it all).
In the end… all I can say is that it is as good as it gets. 2010 proved to have the best films ever. Darren Aronofsky managed as always to make his audience cringe at most of the scenes but also getting engrossed in the story and being unable to let go until the last second of the film has ended. My advice – SEE IT as soon as you get the opportunity.