Natalie Portman’s bird flew

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?


9 thoughts on “Natalie Portman’s bird flew

  1. I saw it last Sunday and like you I thought it was 10/10 all round. I haven’t seen any of Darren Aronofsky’s movies since Pi and Requiem For A Dream – which takes a dive straight into Hell in the last half hour. Black Swan on the other hand sits close to the edge from the beginning. The little girl bedroom with heaped fluffy toys, conversation over breakfast with Mom… there’s potential for something to crack here, all right.
    On the subject of Mom, Barbara Hershey is the creepiest movie mother since old Mrs Bates twitched those upstairs curtains. Every actor was cast perfectly but the central performance by Natalie Portman is fantastic. (Teeny weeny voice) “I want it to be perfect…”


  2. I very much want to see this movie. Am ahuge fan of Portman too because she is a real actor in the sense that Christian Bale is. He’s lost ridiculous amounts of weight for a part (The Machinist) then bulked up immediately afterwards for his first Batman film. He’s not afraid to play an unsympathetic character (American Psycho) or to submerge himself for the sake of other, purpotedly lesser roles in his work (Dark Knight would probably have been Ledger’s to steal even if he’d lived).
    But Natalie Portman has even more presence onscreen than Bale’s sometimes blank canvas. She’s fragile yet sexy, cerebral yet lithe, and her naturalistic approach to acting makes it so easy to forget she IS only playing a part. She’s been this good since Leon but sadly most people judge her on the fact that she was in the stodgy new Star Wars films.


  3. Yeah maybe this one will change the way people see her now. One scene that shows how good she is, is where she hears news that she’s got the leading role. It’s a simple scene; just a head and shoulders shot and she just cries. It’s not a very flattering shot, her eyes are red and her face is puffed up but it really comes from the heart. Because she’s not bothered about looking good all the time, she goes beyond being a star and becomes something much more impressive; a good actor.


  4. Another one worth your time and money is The Fighter. Top performances from Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg. Plus the very attractively redheaded Amy Adams, and another creepy screen mom brought to life by Melissa Leo.


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