Sunday, December 12, 2010

Box Office Review - Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky has made four films prior to Black Swan and they all have something in common. They are very difficult to watch. Pi, Requiem For A Dream, The Fountain, and The Wrestler all take the viewer to places that aren't exactly enjoyable to go. The Fountain gets a pass because it can be interpreted as a hope filled love story, but the other three, especially Requiem For A Dream can be emotionally devastating viewing experiences. Aronofsky's new film Black Swan is no different.

Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayer a ballerina who has dedicated everything to the craft. This dedication has lead to neglect in all other aspects of her life. This sacrifice and dedication has payed off as she has achieved a technical perfection in her art. Unfortunately she soon discovers that technical perfection is not all that is needed to be a great ballerina. It is this realization that puts Nina onto a path of insanity.

Black Swan has much in common with the body horror and insanity films of David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski. The film creates a world of isolation and hopelessness for the main character. This element is the most horrific element in the film. Natalie Portman's performance has a lot to do with this. Portman's performance as Nina begins all sweet and innocent. As the film moves on demons from her past begin to reappear and her spirit is gradually destroyed. Portman is able to physically manifest this. As a result I haven't felt this bad for a film character in a long time. Her performance is one of the best manifestations of insanity in film and it must to be seen to be fully appreciated.

As the film is about insanity, it can feel at times very manipulative. This is especially apparent when thinking back on the film. Focusing on trying to decipher if what is happening on screen is supposed to be happening will lead to insanity for the viewer. It's one of those things that just has to be overlooked to fully experience the film. Focus instead on the impressive visuals by cinematographer Matthew Libatique. It is a guarantee that you will appreciate ballet dancing more after seeing this film. The shots of ballet in this film are the equivalent to the boxing scenes in Raging Bull. On a side note pointe work looks like an extremely painful thing to do.

Director Aronofsky has said that Black Swan can be seen as a companion piece to The Wrestler. The similarities will be obvious to anyone who has seen that film. Unfortunately the problems I have with The Wrestler are also problems I have with Black Swan. In The Wrestler anytime the scenes are not in or near a wrestling arena the movie is at its worst. I feel the same about Black Swan. When the film is away from the stage of practice rooms the film isn't as engorssing. Black Swan does have and advantage over The Wrestler though as its subject matter features scenes of horror.

Looking at Darren Aronofsky's five films Black Swan places second in least depressing and day ruining. The great performance by Natalie Portman and the beautiful cinematography also rank it second only to The Fountain in the listing of my favourite Aronofsky films.

A Gold Banana

1 comment:

  1. Hey film Ape
    New blog format looks awesome!
    Keep up the great reviews