I hadn’t read much about Black Swan before I saw it. I knew I wanted to see it because Natalie Portman was in it (it’s her acting ability I like, honest!). I think I was expecting a pretty average thriller type thing based around the world of ballet but there’s definitely nothing average about Black Swan.
It all revolves around an incredibly uptight and fragile young ballerina who gains the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake. In the ballet the swan ends up killing herself so you wouldn’t think the role would be many laughs but it is one of the most coveted in ballet. Portman’s character knows she can dance the socks off the White Swan role but she must also play the dark side; the eponymous Black Swan. Being a perfectionist, she can get all the technical moves right but she can’t let herself go emotionally enough to convincingly portray the dark side of the character.
Natalie Portman is amazing in this film, playing what might have been quite an irritating part (the character is necessarily feeble at the start and for the bulk of the film) in a very sympathetic way. She appears to do dance moves which would strain the sinews of real dancers! Also she does that thing which really good actresses do; she doesn’t have to always look good. She weeps buckets, appears without make-up, throws up in a toilet, masturbates, has oral sex with a woman, and most gruelling of all she dances, dances, dances, dances those impossible, painful, back-breaking steps (sounds like any average Friday night round here).
A word about those lesbian, oral sex, masturbation scenes… The movie feels sort of larger than life because of the grandness of the dancing and the dramatic nature of Tchaikovsky‘s music. Maybe due to this, you feel like you are seeing everything there is to see writ large on the big screen. At times it felt a bit like a Hammer horror movie and you certainly feel glad that you didn’t bring Auntie Mabel! Actually you don’t see very much at all; there is no nudity, very little violence and certainly no graphic sex. It has the atmosphere of a melodrama because of the link with Swan Lake but is actually quite subtle.
If I had to criticise I’d say the supporting characters were a bit clichéd; the tyrant of a dance teacher, the overbearing mother, the sexy co-dancer… But even here you could argue that all of these characters are being viewed through the increasingly unstable (not to mention bloodshot) eyes of the Portman character so no wonder they seem overblown.
The main reason I enjoyed it is because is wasn’t run of the mill. It was something different and, for once, I didn’t feel like I knew what was coming next. It had a satisfying ending which was far from sugary sweet but felt right. I won’t give it away but just keep thinking about Swan Lake and what happens to that bird. Anyone thinking of buying a new duvet?
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