The Black Swan
- Reviewed by Charis Scott-Holm
- Published on January 19th, 2011 at 11:19a.m.
The director of 'Requiem for a Dream' was never going to make your average film about a production of Swan Lake.
Indeed, Darren Aronofsky's tale of mental breakdown is anything but average, with an unhealthy dosage of paranoia, sexual frustration and often self-inflicted violence.
Sweet, naive Nina (Natalie Portman), who has lived a sheltered life with an overbearing mother, is given the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake, but has to unleash her dark side in order to convincingly portray the seductive Black Swan.
Plagued with low self confidence and worry that another girl (Mila Kunis) is trying to steal her part, and no doubt wracked with guilt over her replacement of the last Prima Ballerina (Winona Ryder), Nina is harangued by creepy choreographer Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) and humiliated into letting herself go and sexing it up.
Here all normality disappears, and the audience is left to wonder whether the drugged sex, sexual harassment and gratuitous self harm is real or in Nina's head.
The film's ability to grip and shock is quite unparalleled in my view. Set to a haunting sugar plum fairy-esque score, Nina's slide into insanity makes your skin crawl and the few moments of gore become far more shocking than anything you'll see in a certificate 18 horror movie. Aronofsky's true gift is in the tension he builds- which never lets up right until the finale.
Believe me- do not expect to draw any sort of solid conclusions.
'The Black Swan' is like a sheerly visceral and decidedly dark version of 'The Red Shoes', and deserves to become a similarly cinema classic.