Thursday, 30 June 2011

Director Of The Month Film Review: Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan

Rating: 6/10 - Good

Billed as a psychological drama, Black Swan (2010) garnered a fair amount of acclaim for its lead Natalie Portman in her Oscar winning role. As for the film itself?

Director: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel. Producers:Ari Handel, Scott Franklin. Studio: Phoenix Picture. Running Time: 108 minutes.

The plot is around the production of Swan Lake by the New York City company. Ambitious dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lands the lead role. But although she is the perfect choice for the role of the White Swan, she must learn to embrace the sensuality of the Black Swan. Her understudy Lily (Mila Kunis) embodies the Black Swan both on and off the stage, leaving the fragile Nina competing with both herself and Lily.

Aronofsky’s Black Swan is seen as a companion piece to The Wrestler. Both films deal with the high demands of performance on an artist whose body is their main instrument. The motivation for the film, however, was the role of understudies, the role of being replaceable.

The film itself plays with what is real and what is imagined as Nina grapples with her need for perfectionism, under the watchful eye of her mother (brilliantly played by Barbara Hershey). As Nina begins to embrace her ‘dark’ side, the lines between reality and illusion are blurred. As the audience, a lot of the time, you’re left guessing.

A lot was made mention, at the time of release, of the extraordinary lengths to which Portman went to ensure that she could dance her way through her scenes. It is a pity, as Kunis’s performance is raw and earthy, and Winona Ryder as a has-been prima ballerina is chilling in a case of life imitating art(?)

Although Aronofsky plays with reality, and leaves the audience guessing to the very end (clue: the answer is always in front of you), it left me feeling, was that all? Sometimes the dialogue lacked finesse, the sex scenes were gaudy and crass, the underlying suggestion that sex is more tawdry than tender, and that getting in touch with your sensual side requires a stint in the bath. For a psychological drama, it felt pat.

Verdict: Rather watch The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke’s ruined beauty is far superior.

Black Swan is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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