The next recommendation from my viewing of Gold Diggers of 1933 in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book, is less musical, but more behind the scenes of a production, and the lead’s gradual descent into madness, in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. The beauty and sensuality of the ballet, Swan Lake, is brilliantly brought to life, as Nina (Natalie Portman) a life long dancer, is giving the leading role in the ballet, and the pressure, the drive, and the obsession of being the best, and to make everything perfect causes her to descend into madness, with reality and fantasy blurring, all while trying to balance the innocence o f the White Swan, and the seductive allure of the Black Swan.
The dual nature is explored everywhere in this film, there are mirrors, and reflections everywhere, there are doppelgängers, and there are characters who are complete opposites, creating dark reflections of one another, in behaviors, manners, and dress. There is beauty, obsession, drive and desire, and that’s just the on-stage story, there are frightening things happening off stage as Nina sinks deeper and deeper into madness, and moments of body horror that can almost parallel Cronenberg.
And Nina is right in the middle of everything, certainly not the calm eye of the storm as her life becomes increasingly tormented as she tries to deal with the suffocating nature of her obsessed mother (Barbara Hershey), the manipulation by, and the attraction she feels for the artistic director, Thomas (Vincent Cassell), and the new member in the troupe, the beguiling dancer, a personification of the Black Swan, Lily (Mila Kunis).
As Nina tries to find her way into the character, her own inner darkness continues to grow, threatening to engulf her completely, and definitely influencing how she sees the world, and those she works with.
All of this is shot in Aronofsky’s gritty documentary style shooting, which highlights Portman’s Oscar-winning performance, as well as the gorgeous ballet sequences, and lends a reality to it that makes the terrifying moments all that vivid as we’re unsure if what we are seeing is real, or just more of Nina’s life falling apart…
I was also delighted to see our friend Ksenia Solo make an appearance in this! I’d totally forgotten she was in it until I saw her name pop up in the opening credits, and then I let out a little cheer!
This film is wonderfully dark, moody, and shows the intense pressure that goes into the creation of the seemingly effortless movements of a ballet. I hadn’t seen this one since it first came out, so it was almost like seeing it anew, and it is definitely a marvelous, reality-shattering piece that packs a powerful impact, and Portman’s performance is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
This was a nice recommendation to end on before sliding over to the next genre…
What did you think of it?