Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 108 mins
Black Swan is an American film about a ballet dancer who wins the lead role in an adaptation of Swan Lake, and although she starts off much like the delicate White Swan, she begins to lose her mind under the pressure of the starring role, leading her to become more and more like the evil Black Swan.
This film is a thrillingly dark and intriguing psychological drama. With a stunning central performance from Natalie Portman, a story that’s often so distressing it feels as if you’re being taken through hell and back, as well as some sublime directorial work from Darren Aronofsky, who puts his signature touch of extreme melancholia right at the centre of this film.
I’ll start with what I thought was the most impressive part of this whole film, which is the horrific, dark and heavy atmosphere that it manages to create so spectacularly and thrillingly throughout the story. Even in the initial stages, when the main character, Nina, hasn’t yet begun her descent into madness, it still has this feeling of serious darkness that chills you to the bone right from the start.
One of the other things that helps to make this film so dark is its unrelenting attitude towards the more gruesome parts of the whole thing. There are times in this film where you’d expect it to hold back, even Requiem For A Dream isn’t as graphic in some respects as this film, but it’s those moments and that painful but massively intrigued feeling that you get when you want to look away from the horror on screen but just can’t that make it such an outstanding atmosphere.
Also, I was absolutely blown away by the score in this film, which is another instrumental part to making it so dark but so outstanding. Throughout, you get a sense of real eeriness from the backing music, as well as some louder pieces that really emphasise the heaviness of some parts of this film, however it’s the haunting rendition of the original Swan Lake song (by the genius Clint Mansell, who did ‘Lux Aeterna’) that comes towards the end of the film that really stunned me, making for one of the most exhilarating and dramatic finales I’ve ever seen.
Away from the darkness of it all, I’ve got to commend Natalie Portman’s brilliant central performance here. She shows off such a dramatic character transformation in absolute style, being both perfectly believable as the goody-two-shoes at the beginning as well as the almost evil individual that she becomes towards the end, which was absolutely breathtaking for me to watch unfold.
Finally, Darren Aronofsky’s directing here is also absolutely stunning. He’s got all the classic shaky cam in here, but it’s used to an effect that I’ve not seen before, rather than to create a sense of chaos/action/speed, he uses it to make the whole thing seem incredibly distressing, as well as brilliantly contrasting the elegance of the ballet with the brutality of the central character’s ordeal.
Overall, I’ll give Black Swan an 8.4, due to its fantastically thrilling and outstandingly dark story and atmosphere, along with a brilliant performance by Natalie Portman and ingenious direction from Darren Aronofsky.