The Fall of the Swan Queen

Black Swan


Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Patrick Heusinger

Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece is a taut psychological thriller about a prima ballerina who delves into her dark side, so she can perform the complex role of the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.  Natalie Portman gives a stunning and frenzied performance as Nina Sayers. As well as the physical demands of playing the lead Ballerina in Swan Lake, Nina is trapped in a claustrophobic and co-dependent relationship with her mother, a wonderfully obsessive performance by Barbara Hershey (Portrait of a Lady).

Whilst rehearsing for the final act, the ballet master a seductive and sadistic Thomas played with relish by Vincent Cassel, taunts Nina and reproaches her continually for not bringing out her dark qualities to dance the antithesis of the White Swan, the Black Swan. The fact that Nina is prone to episodes of self-mutilation smothered by her overbearing mother and is generally an exceptional sexually frustrated and fragile young woman who uses dancing to quench her repressive state, makes Black Swan a highly intoxicating psycho sexual thriller set in the bitchy and uncompromising world of ballet.

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Aronofsky always has his central characters stripped away to the vicious core, from The Wrestler, where in a break-out performance by Mickey Rourke as a washed up Trailer Park, drug-addicted wrestler angling for a comeback to heroin addicts played by Jennifer Connelly and Jared Leto in Coney Island, who resort to extreme methods for their drugs, as detailed in the inventive and shockingly brutal Requiem for a Dream.

Black Swan is no exception, as Portman gives a ground breaking performance of a Ballerina rapidly losing her grip on reality, delving deeper into her own troubled and shattered psychosis to satisfy the dreams of an obsessed mother who compromised her own stage success.

Black Swan is about the rigours of Ballet training along with the mental deterioration of a young woman driven beyond the edge of sanity, surrounded by a gallery of heinous characters from an overbearing mother, a cruel ballet instructor and a tempting rival, Lily played with an unforgiving relish by Milas Kunis slyly plotting to derail Nina’s debut as the Swan Queen.

This is a classic psychological thriller, from the drab and daunting world of the dance studios, filled with giant mirrors reflecting Nina’s inner torment to the dingy apartment shared with her mother, an entire film bathed in black and white with only the occasional gashes of blood to break the diametric colour palette. Watch out for a great cameo performance by Winona Ryder as the broken ballerina Beth who declines as savagely as Nina’s star rises dramatically. Black Swan is a debut etched in blood and director Aronofsky, like in The Wrestler and Requiem for Dream shows this grueling Ballet world in its entire stripped down depravity, with obsessive dancers driven and searching for a depreciating gratification. A far cry from the graceful triumph associated with Ballet exemplified in such films as The Company and Mao’s Last Dancer.

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