A swan emerges from a duckling of an idea.
Image: Twentieth Century Fox
Having brought Mickey Rourke back to life, and collected a few more accolades for his work in The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky is back with a follow-up that’s sure to continue his winning run.
Black Swan stars everyone’s favourite Natalie Portman as the innocent, disciplined Nina, a dancer with a New York City ballet company who’s anxious to get the part of the swan queen in the new production of Swan Lake. Her problem however lies in her inability to completely lose herself and grasp the uninhibited nature of the seductive black swan.
There’s not much of an original idea here. The concept of the artistic individual who’s unable to search within him/herself to find what’s missing is recurrent, as is the idea that one must have experienced a certain kind of pain in order to play a role (what happened to the notion of an actor?). But with uninspiring material, and a mediocre beginning, Black Swan eventually unfolds into an addictive and stimulating film.
There’s a lot of Oscar buzz circulating around Portman for her dedicated incarnation – for which she is reported to have trained for months – and while her performance is undeniably impressive (some might even say flawless), it’s also slightly frustrating to watch. Although the actress is not a professional dancer, having trained so intensely for the role, I’d be disappointed if Aronofsky, as lovely as they are, chose to shoot only my arms for the majority of the film. Seriously. She’s an actress, yes, but I’m sure she was able to do more than flap her arms up and down (all the intricate moves are reserved for the pros). In addition, with the exception of the 15-minute intoxicatingly good Swan Lake finale, there’s very little dancing in the film, which may please some, but disappoint those expecting your typical dance movie.
Niggles aside, the movie does draw you in with its darkly colourful tones, mirrors and actors. As well as Portman, Mila Kunis also deserves praise for her supporting role as Nina’s revival/alter ego, Lily. According to the repetitive French artistic director (Vincent Cassel), Lily is everything the black swan should be, and thus, poses a threat to Nina. Kunis is very believable in the role, playing the devilish temptress with ease, which is helped somewhat by the heavy application of her eye liner – as it’s often in the eyes!
Winona Ryder also has a small part to play as a washed-up prima ballerina unable to cope with life on the outside. No comment.
Once again Hollywood doesn’t fail to sensationalise “the artist”, but in spite of this, Aronofsky has produced another stunning piece of work with two great turns from Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.