Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Black Swan (2010)
I once dated a girl in high school who was a dancer. She specialized in jazz/hip-hop but always wanted to try her hand (er, feet?) at being a ballet dancer. She never had the body for it she would tell me even though she was very slim and toned. But more importantly than that, she knew the grueling nature of the dance style. Not for a lack of dedication but more because ballet dancers (seasoned, professional, obsessive ballet dancers) are of a different kind. Rolling ankles, breaking them oftentimes along with toes and toenails, constantly completing and repeating the same dance routine over and over and over until absolute perfection is achieved. Its is the kind of dance style where not only are you physically dedicated, but emotionally as well, far more than any other. Losing yourself totally to the style and the music that accompanies it because the expressive nature of the dance demands that you do so. Why am I telling you all of this as a prelude to my review? I guess understanding that style of dance and the dedication needed for it lent itself to making my film going experience all that much more terrifying. But watching Natalie Portman’s complete immersion into her character as it unfolded onscreen did a brilliant enough job of conveying the crazy and obsessive nature that is so common with people that take up this style of dance.
From the start, a picture is painted of Portman’s character Nina: one of a young, innocent, sexually restrained girl. This picture is affirmed upon inspection of her room. She may be a young twenty something but her room cries of a 12 year old girl. It’s stocked with stuffed animals and all the pink frilly things you’d likely associate. It also doesn’t help that her mother still treats her like a child, putting her to bed at night, waking her up in the morning and constantly referring to her as ‘My sweet sweet girl.’
Nina happens to be a very talented and gifted ballet dancer. After putting in years of hard work with her dance troupe, she’s finally earned top bill as the White Swan in the production of Swan Lake. There's only one problem: she doesn’t have the seductive, alluring, alter personality that’s needed to effectively play the part of the character’s polar opposite, the Black Swan. It’s a dual role that she so desperately wants but her director doesn’t think she has it in her to play.
Arriving on the scene is another girl who immediately displays the necessary characteristics which Nina does not possess. She shows up late to practice, brazenly interrupts Nina’s dance, and later, she flirts with male cast mates and smokes. All of her actions eventually come under the judging and watchful eye of Nina to the point where Nina starts inventing perceived actions as a manifestation of her obsessive, at all costs, desire to play both parts. Nina comes to believe that she is a true threat.
Through the invention of these actions, a few sexual awakenings and a stand against her controlling mother (who’s overcompensating for her own shortcomings in the same profession), Nina becomes that other side, that other person she needs to become in order to successfully play the dual role. It’s difficult to put into words the transformation process (its hinted at throughout the running time of the film). Aronofsky does a brilliant job of blurring the lines of reality until our fateful finish. But the process she goes through in getting there is terrifying. The last 20 min. or so of our film, where she completely turns, rebels, and rids herself of the perceived threat, is some of the most terrifying I’ve ever witnessed onscreen. Accompanied by an incredible score, you'll be riveted all the way until the very bitter end.
And make no mistake. This is billed as a psychological thriller. But it is most definitely a horror film.
Cortez the Killer