Film: Black Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel
This film follows a ballerina dancer played by Natalie Portman. She lives with her overbearing mother, played by Barbara Hershey. We learn that Hershey was a promising ballerina herself, but she slept with a director and became pregnant and she had to give it up.
Portman is a hard worker and a perfectionist, but she also has her issues. She has to deal with a form of self-mutilation in that she picks at her fingers, scratches her back to the point where it is raw, things to this effect. She works hard wanting to be a star. The company she dances for already has one though, but she is aging.
On a subway ride to work, Portman thinks she sees someone who looks very similar to her. She stares and at a stop this woman gets off the train. It starts moving before she can get a better look.
Portman is quiet, listening to Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau and Janet Montgomery, other dancers in the company in their dressing room. They talk about the star and how she has lost it and needs to retire. We also see a new dancer show up late; she is played by Mila Kunis.
The girls all go out to warm up and they are watched by the director, played by Vincent Cassel. He informs them that the first show will be for the Swan Queen. They are going to replace the star with someone new. The person who takes the lead with has to play both the Swan Queen and the Black Swan, her evil twin. He then tells us the story of the play, about how the virgin becomes a swan and only her true love can break the spell. The prince is swayed by the evil twin and the Swan Queen kills herself.
Portman is one of the dancers who does an audition for the role. She is on point for the Swan Queen. When she tries to dance the Black Swan, she is too uptight. Her performance is also ruined when Kunis comes in late. Cassel is interested in her and lets us know that she has been brought in especially from San Francisco. She is also a free spirit.
We then meet the former star, Winona Ryder. She is irate and wrecks her dressing room in a rage at being replaced. Portman sneaks in and steals some of her things. On the way home, Portman sees another woman who looks like her, but at the last minute she realizes it is not. She is upset, thinking she has lost the part. Her mother tries to console her.
The next day, she puts on make-up and visits Cassel. She asks what she can do to get the part. He tells her that she is too reserved and cannot seduce the audience like he needs. He tells her that Solo has gotten the part. He then kisses her and she bites his lip. She is upset and Solo asks why she is staring at her. It is revealed that the cast has been posted and Portman congratulates her. Solo is then irate when she sees that she didn’t get the part, but Portman did.
Someone writes on a bathroom mirror that she is a whore and Ryder accuses her of sleeping with Cassel. Portman begins to lose it more and more as she practices for the role. She is too uptight and cannot let loose. Cassel seduces her at one point and asks her to touch herself, wanting her to tap into this part of her that is repressed. Her mother is concerned she is pushing herself too hard. Portman even goes out with Kunis who is a bad influence. She does help her to let loose and they go back to Portman’s place for a sexual encounter, or did they?
Can Portman keep it together and perform this role? Is she losing her mind? What is real and what isn’t?
I have to say that I loved this film the first time I saw and then even more the second time around. This film is about a dancer wanting the role in a fairy tale play, but the whole film overall is telling the story of the play. Portman is great. She is a repressed woman that Cassel and Kunis are trying to break out of her shell to realize what she could do. Her descent into madness is real and we don’t even know what is truth or fiction. I also love Kunis as the evil twin who corrupts Portman. It is interesting that during the first warm-up, Portman is the only one wearing white. She constantly is wearing white or lighter colors, where Kunis is always seen in black until the performance. Portman only wears black during the night she goes out with Kunis and she gives Portman the shirt, as well as drugs and alcohol. Cassel is also great in his role.
The only negative I have to say for this film is that it has an ambiguous ending. Does she die at the end of the film, like the play, or is it the death of her innocence into womanhood? I personally love films that end like this. I like to decide and leave it open for debate. This is an amazing horror film. It also has a great lesbian scene between Portman and Kunis as well.
With that said, I would recommend this film. It has great acting, story and execution. This is a beautifully done film about a repressed woman who pushes herself to the limit and her mind may snap. It isn’t overly long and it is worth it for the lesbian scene as well. This is definitely a masterpiece and well done by director Darren Aronofsky. I say this film deserves a viewing.
My Rating: 10 out of 10