Had I known “Black Swan” was a psychological thriller (some say “psycho-sexual” ) set in the world of ballet, I probably wouldn’t have gone, quite frankly. But Sunday was a shitty, dark, rainy day in Atlanta, and I had just finished lunch at my favorite little Lebanese cafe, and I was cold and bored. Black Swan was playing in my favorite Art cinema nearby, so I just figured WTF?
Am I glad I did!
Black Swan, brilliantly directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) has just been nominated for 4 Golden Globes, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Natalie Portman) and Best Supporting Actress (Mila Kunis)
In the movie, Nina Sayers (Portman) lands the lead, dual role in the company’s artistic director’s (played seductively by Vincent Cassel as Thomas) version of Swan Lake. She is perfect for the White Swan, but pulling off the darker role of Black Swan is a stretch for the dancer. Enter exotic Lily (Kunis-hot enough to make any hetero woman jump ship) whose brazen sexuality is a natural for the role. A relationship of sorts forms between the two dancers, based on what, we’re not quite sure.
Barbara Hershey plays Nina’s overbearing, ballet- obsessed Mother, who makes it clear that she gave up her “career” to raise Nina, and frankly, she spooked the bejesus out of me. As an ex family therapist, I’ve seen lots of fucked-up Mother-Daughter relationships, but this is one for the books. Especially unnerving is the scene in which virginal Nina takes Thomas’ advice to let herself go and touch herself. In the throes of a self-induced orgasm, Nina opens her eyes to find “Mommie-Dearest” sitting across the room. OMG!
Black Swan gives viewers a glimpse into the brutal world of ballet. Yes, brutal, both psychologically and physically. Winona Ryder has a brief but important role as Beth, the previous lead Swan, now cast aside for a newer, younger replacement. We see the drive for perfection so tragically strong it can easily lead to self-destruction. This is evident in the bloody picking, scratching and purging we witness in Nina, as well as the suicide attempt of deranged Beth.
The entire movie seamlessly threads these discomforting, creepy, bloody scenes throughout. You know, the kind of scene where you tense your ass-muscles, avert your eyes, and hold your breath, but just can’t seem to get enough.
Combining artful operatic scenes with acid-trances and bloody horror, it is difficult to tell what is real and what is a dream, which is one of the tactics that makes this film so brilliant. It is also what will undoubtedly make some purists dislike it. Undoubtedly, Black Swan will be one of the most talked-about films of the year.