December 20, 2010

Swan Queen




I have been waiting for this movie ever since I saw the first trailer a few months ago. Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is a psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman. She plays Nina Sayers, a plucked from the ensemble ballerina to star as the White and Black Queen in Swan Lake. Vincent Cassel plays Thomas Leroy, the artistic director of the New York City Ballet while Mila Kunis is Lily, also a ballerina and understudy to Nina.

Nina is a very sheltered woman still living with her over bearing mother (Erica Sayers) Barbara Hershey. Erica Sayers is herself a former dancer who gave up dance to raise Nina. Nina is talented and consumed with perfection as a dancer. The principal dancer of their company played by Winona Ryder is retired prematurely by Leroy and he starts auditions for the new principal. Nina is eventually chosen but not after some company intrigue. Things change and become more intense when Lily befriends Nina and shows her an alternative lifestyle to her more stern and focused one. This then creates conflict with Nina's mother. I don't want to give anything more but the plot escalates when rehearsals for Swan Lake start. Nina, sweet and innocent, is perfect as the White Swan. Leroy demands that Nina play a convincing Black Swan which she struggles to do. Meanwhile Lily, the complete personification of the Black Swan, always looms in the background.

I heard that Natalie Portman trained for 10 months to be on pointe. That's impressive! It's incredible to watch her particularly during the rehearsal scenes. Her torment when she struggles to find her inner Black Swan, the more seductive of the two characters, is so intense and completely painted in her facial expressions. You feel that you are right there with her. Of course this is amplified with the great closeup shots by Matthew Libatique (cinematographer). The dance shots are so enjoyable with particular detail given to limb movements. I particularly enjoyed the closeup shots of the feet when the dancers were doing pirouettes. The movie had some sort of documentary feel because of this.

Vincent Cassel was perfect as the demanding yet manipulative company head. While Mila Kuniz was a great "bad girl" ballerina.

This movie is not what you think and will surprise you as a viewer. There are some surreal aspects of the movie (which I won't talk about because it would hint at the plot) that I was really creeped out by. It did, however, add to the intenseness. By the time the movie ended I was actually relieved because I don't think I could take any more suspense!

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