Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel
Release Date: 21st Jan 2011
Running Time: 107mins.
Black Swan is a critical darling, basking and bowing before the critical garlands and superlatives thrown at its feet. It walks a fine line though – this remarkable portrait of a ballet dancer is so hysterical that it nearly veers into camp. But director Darren Aronofsky and star Natalie Portman ensure that every scene is tightly coiled and effective.
Natalie Portman plays Nina, a wholesome, repressed and blindingly ambitious young dancer. When the lead in her company (Winona Ryder) is deemed too old to continue, Nina gets the chance to lead Swan Lake. This is the culmination of a lifetime’s work. As her choreographer (the always awesome Vincent Cassell) says, “every dancer in the world wants your part”. But now that she has everything to lose, Nina starts to question herself. Will she be up to the task? Will the company choose another lead? And who is this funky new dancer (Mila Kunis) and what has she got planned?
Taking cues from Repulsion and The Red Shoes, Aronofsky crafts a nightmare portrait of fragile mental illness as Nina becomes increasingly paranoid and unhinged; hallucinating (or is she?) and questioning innocent colleagues (or are they?).
Black Swan is possibly Aronofsky’s most stylized and confident film (which is saying something), but this isn’t just a bag of tricks and its dramatic themes are rich: How much can one give for their art? At what stage does one’s work take over one’s life? Can you be both paranoid and legitimately aggrieved? One tiny complaint; Nina’s room, all pretty pinks and cuddly toys, is a bridge too far. Do any grown-ups live in places like that?
So intense and (at times) unnerving, Black Swan nearly drifts into horror territory. It’s a riveting, dizzying experience – eye-watering in its intensity and richly cinematic; the first unmissable film of 2011.