Black Swan stars Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Nina Sayer, an ambitious ballerina. This psychological thriller is a dark, tormented view into the unsanitary competitive pressure of professional ballet. Thrilling from the beginning and ranging from uncomfortable to disturbing at its peaks.
Nina Sayer is already a nervous and emaciated dancer before she lands her dream role as the lead ballerina in ‘Swan Lake’. Her delicacy lends itself to the romantic waifish White Swan which is half of the role. Though Nina’s search for perfection and the Black Swan half leads her down a path of insecurity and paranoia till the opening night amidst a psychotic breakdown.
The film begins with Nina’s dream of herself as the Black Swan. Her nightmare is both beautiful and haunting, foreboding her role. You then meet her character which is a quiet, fragile girl though she has her own darkness in kleptomania, self harm and her unequivocal determination to be perfect. It becomes obvious that she is kept in this child-like state by her over protective mother.
Although Black Swan is riddled with sexual scenes of Natalie Portman pleasuring herself, each scene becomes more harrowing than the last. Nina’s endeavour to let go culminates in a drug addled encounter with a rebellious dancer Lily (Mila Kunis, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) which crosses between fantasy and reality.
Meanwhile Nina Sayer’s pushy, leering coach, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, Ocean’s Thirteen), adds to the extra confusion of professional pressure and sexual interest particularly as he told her to intimately touch herself. Lily soon becomes Nina’s adversary as her sexual ambition embodies the Black Swan. The lines of lust and psychological pressure are interwoven into a bewildering experience for Nina and the audience.
Through Nina Sayer’s psychosis life begins to imitate art and the blurring boundaries lead to some shocking twists (which I am struggling not to spoil). The relative innocence of Nina’s original character endears her to the audience as they are drawn into her crumpling psyche and are often as confused as she is.
Black Swan is a film you should avoid watching alone for your own sanity (something I learnt the hard way) though it is a highly recommended; beautifully depicted, performed and shot in spite of being quite heavy.
Also posted on InQuire Live.