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‘Black Swan’ Review

Black and white represent nearly every set piece or costume in “Black Swan”, except the numerous shots of bloody feet, hands and well, other things. In fact, black and white could go a long way describing the plot of this movie, a symbolic good versus evil war within one’s own heart.

Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and The Wrestler) starts off with a shadowy dark picture of a single ballerina bathed in ivory spinning slowly and precise.  But from there, he throws viewers into the helter-skelter underground world of ballet, filled with fierce competition, grueling training and a vile instructor who takes advantage of his pupils.

Natalie Portman, in what is easily her strongest and bravest work to date, stars as Nina Sayers. A repressed, twenty-something dancer dying for the lead of Swan Queen in her company’s latest production of “Swan Lake.” Right from the get-go there is something noticeably off about this girl. And I do mean girl, although in her twenties, she comes off as a teen trying desperately to become a woman (she still has stuffed teddy bears in her pink room.) Standing in her way, Nina’s overbearing mother played chillingly by Barbara Hershey. See, mommy used to be a dancer too and wants to see her “sweet little girl” succeed where mommy never did. Dear mother also has an unsettling obsession with painting young Nina in various stylized portraits.

Aside from manic mommy, Nina must battle rival dancers, her overtly sexual ballet master and her own fraying psyche. Her main nemesis may also be her closest friend, Lily played by Mila Kunis. Lily embodies many qualities Nina so greatly desires. A care-free, do-what-I-please “Black Swan.”

One of the biggest stories surrounding this film is the overly-hype lesbian sex scene between Kunis and Portman. Going in, I was worried it would be a distraction. For me, many movies contain unnecessary nudity and sex that take away rather than add. However, this scene supports the plot and even moves it forward. Perhaps even giving the audience a Freudian reference to what is actually going on inside Nina’s head. I won’t go into detail on my theory.

As Nina’s life begins to unravel, Portman’s performance becomes even stronger. A beautiful actress forced into the hard rigors of daily ballet, Portman shows all the wear. Her face more contoured and determined along with her bony and barely there body. She portrays Nina as a whirlwind of emotions, going from a  frail and sheepish girl to a woman willing to win at any cost.

The end of “Black Swan” may not please everyone. But it’s open for interpretation, as are most of Aronofsky’s films. The director takes viewers outside themselves and their perfectly-wrapped Hollywood endings and gives people something to ponder after leaving the theater instead of looking for the nearest TGI Friday’s. Has Nina gone off the deep-end? Was it all a dream? Were portions all in her head? Or was the film a mirror of “Swan Lake” itself?

Some of the best things in life are not always black and white.

Check out the trailer below if you haven’t seen it already:

posted by Seth Szilagyi in Black Swan and have Comment (1)