The world of ballet will never seem the same again as Black Swan, a film which is both beautiful and disturbing, gives us Natalie Portman’s best performance yet as the perfection-seeking ballerina whose dream disintegrates along with her fragile mind.
This film, or should I say stroke of genius, from director Darren Aronofsky is certainly not for the faint-hearted. The shaky documentary style filming adds to the overall purpose of this psychological thriller which delves into the mind of New York ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Portman ) who, although she has perfected her art, inflicting excruciating injuries on her body, is held back by her inability to let go, to be passionate enough to take on the performance of a lifetime.
It is clear from the beginning that Sayers is a girl who we want to like and care about, but there is just something off about her, a darker side itching to come out, to rebel against her overbearing and stifling mother, to live a little. However, as this swan struggles to take flight she loses control of her thoughts and eventually her actions.
The New York Ballet’s artistic director Thomas (Vincent Cassel ) has plans to put his star ballerina Beth (Winona Ryder ) out to pasture and present a new fresh face, so the dancers compete for the coveted role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake. To her surprise Nina is chosen for the lead role, however Thomas is concerned that, although Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, she lacks the passion and seduction needed to portray the alter-ego of the Black Swan. Nina’s innocence and sexual timidity is somewhat exploited by Thomas who pushes her to “lose” herself. Punishing practice sessions follow and Nina succumbs to the pressure. This is compounded by the arrival of a lookalike dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis ), who is a complete opposite and Nina begins to feel more and more threatened, experiencing hallucinations and paranoia that seem all too real. As Nina’s descent continues, the line between reality and the imagined becomes more blurred, the dancing more arduous but brilliant, while the sense of danger increases.
Portman’s acting is just spellbinding, and coupled with her method approach to learning ballet to such a degree as to convincingly pulloff many of the dance scenes, means that she is truly a contender for a best actress award at this year’s Oscars.