starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder
Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin
directed by Darren Aronofsky
My family and I watched Black Swan at home on DVD in mid-September. It was a highly acclaimed movie, so I was expecting a lot. I thought it was a powerful film, but I didn’t like it. Portman’s ballet dancer character is so screwed up in the head that I don’t see how she could be a real ballerina in real life, and I am conservative enough that I want that least that much realism in my entertainment. I imagine ballerinas have to have their heads screwed on a lot tighter and be in more control of their lives and bodies than Portman’s character, Nina, was. Of course, the point of the story is that Nina, who was naturally fit for the role of the White Swan, was driven around the bend by the pressure of the opposite Black Swan role. Or, maybe it was the result of the pressure of being the company’s lead, regardless of the role. Anyway, she pulled it off. Her performance was transcendental, but self-destructive. Too often I couldn’t tell if what was on the screen was real, or another of Nina’s hallucinations.
The interesting thing about this movie is that the telling of the story is also the actualization of the story. Portman’s Nina is the White Swan. Her rival dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis) is the Black Swan. Her other rival, Beth (Winona Ryder), injured in a road accident, is the Dying Swan, Nina’s mother (Barbara Hershey) is the Queen, and Cassel’s Thomas is the Gentleman, throwing romantic confusion into the Swan’s life.
Natalie Portman is not a dancer, of course, so we never see her below the waist up close or when Nina is dancing. I also noticed that, from a distance, Portman completely lacks that tell-tale ballerina way of walking, with splayed feet.
I was concentrating so much on Portman that I didn’t even notice Winona Ryder as a rival dancer until I saw the credits at the end and thought, “Oh! Was that her?” Vincent Cassel, playing the troupe’s artistic director, is thoroughly despicable. Good performance, though.