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Black Swan

Graham Eley

Darren Aronofsky’s previous film, the Wrestler, was a telling exploration of compulsive ambition and the risk of irrevocable personal damage.  His follow up, Black Swan, goes one stage further with a melodrama of self-destruction on the grandest scale in a return to the classic ballet terrain of Powell & Pressburger’s Red Shoes but turbo charged with characteristic Aronofsky excess.  Predictions of Academy Award nominations have abounded ever since its Venice premiere and it received recognition in the best film and direction categories this week.  But it is Natalie Portman as best actress who offers most hope of an Oscar where she is likely to go head to head with Annette Bening.

 

Portman plays Nina, an emerging ballerina at the Lincoln Centre, New York.  The company’s tyrannical director, Thomas, has ditched his ageing star and needs a replacement for a new production of Swan Lake.  The virginal Nina, with her flawless technique and total dedication, would be perfect for the White Swan but could she embrace the carefree abandon of the character’s evil alter ego, the counterpart that gives the film its title?  Thomas takes a chance on Nina but she must yield to her own Black Swan, a release of her dark side, a conquering of her sexual fears, a living for the moment totally contrary to her natural instincts.

 

Nina shares a claustrophobic apartment with her controlling mother, an apartment that is part child’s nursery and part prison cell.  There are echoes of Dogtooth in Nina’s pink bedroom littered with dolls and cuddly toys; a controlled environment for infantilism.  This is a mother forced to quit her own career as a ballerina upon becoming pregnant, a mother now reliving her youth through her daughter.  Barbara Hersey is totally convincing portraying her possessive maternal desperation and she was unlucky not to receive an Academy nomination for best supporting actress.

 

Thick scratch marks on Nina’s back are evidence that she is prone to self-mutilation; a reaction to the extraordinary physical and psychological rigours of endless practice of the kind that Frederick Wiseman laid bare in last year’s acclaimed fly on the wall documentary La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet.  Nina adds a newly liberated life style to the cocktail in opposition to her ingrained sexual repression and things go from bad to worse.  Teaming up with Lily, a promiscuous newcomer recently arrived from the West Coast, Nina and the audience alike find it increasing difficult to distinguish reality from fantasy.  Self-mutilation turns to obsession and obsession turns to drug induced paranoia and Aronofsky turns up the heat with progressively extravagant and surreal imagery.  In Nina’s deranged state, Lily becomes a threat, a challenger for her role.  We see Lily making explicit sexual advances to Thomas but intentional ambiguity leaves it unclear whether it is a figment of Nina’s imagination.  Not to be outdone, Nina plays sexual cat and mouse games with Thomas and the more daring she becomes, the more convincing her portrayal.  Back stage is reflecting the ballet and the ballet is reflecting real life as the two sides of human nature, the White and Black Swans, initially divided in the characters of Nina and Lily come together in Nina’s new stage and real life persona and when they merge completely, the ballet’s death scene awaits.

 

In case we failed to notice the parallels between the film’s characters and those in the ballet, the final credits make it explicit.  But not until Aronofsky’s final scene explodes in an unrestrained spectacle of a kind that in a different context would be overindulgence bordering on overkill but here it feels absolutely spot on.buy cialis in mexicocheap cialis from canadacialis cost per pill 2016viagra sublingualviagra sublingual dosage viagra sublingual absorptionsublingual tabs viagra viagra sublingual 100mgviagra sublingual dose viagra sublingual tablet

 

  • Year: 2010
  • Country: USA
  • Filmmaker: Darren Aronofsky
  • Screenwriter: Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz and John J. McLaughlin
  • Producer: Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer and Brian Oliver
  • Cinematographer: Matthew Libatique
  • Editor: Andrew Weisblum
  • Cast: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder & Barbara Hershey
  • Duration: 103 mins
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