Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Sebastian Stan, Barbara Hershey, Kristina Anapau
RunTime: 1 hr 44 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: M18 (Sexual References)
Official Website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/blackswan/
Opening Day: 10 February 2011
Synopsis: "Black Swan" follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter's professional ambition.
When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well.
Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.
Let’s face it – technology has changed the way we watch movies. The main reason why this Darren Aronofsky directed film didn’t make it to many local reviewers’ Top 10 list is due to the fact that it wasn’t released on Singapore screens last year. And because of a peculiar creature called the Internet, people are able to lay their hands on copies of the movie uploaded online. Also, we are not afraid to tell you that many people have out rightly told us that that they have watched this film on their computer screens.
Here comes the clincher: The version that is screened on local screens is edited, due to some censorship regulations. This will probably make more people want to get hold of that uncensored copy of the movie to store it on their computer. Which sections of the film are censored? We’ll come to that later.
But this reviewer is still encouraging you to watch this magnificent piece of work in the theatre – the chilling sensation derived is definitely different as compared to watching it on a small screen.
The screenplay written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin tells the story of a ballet dancer who wins the lead role in “Swan Lake”. She may be perfect for the role of the White Swan, the beautiful and delicate princess which everyone is familiar with, but the performance also requires her to be the Black Swan, a twisted and wicked daughter of a sorcerer. To perfect the craft, she goes through a torturous experience, only to realise that she is slowly losing her mind.
It didn’t come as a surprise that Israel born Natalie Portman could handle this role with so much ease. The gorgeous actress has played the regal Queen Amidala in the Star Wars prequels (1999-2005), a stripper in Closer (2004) and a revolutionary who shaves her head in V for Vendetta (2006), so we had expected her versatility in taking on this challenging role. Besides some rather graphic lovemaking scenes with co star Mila Kunis (you’d only be able to catch suggestive glimpses of these shots in the local theatrical version), Portman has to master some very painful looking ballet moves. In terms of emotions, to be able to portray the character’s vulnerability and confusion, Portman seems to have allowed the perverse personality to get into her bones. Having already won the Best Actress accolade at the recent Golden Globes, she is on her way to clinching the title at the upcoming Academy Awards, where the film is nominated in four other categories.
Besides Kunis as a new dancer in the troupe, Portman’s supporting actors include Vincent Cassel as a demanding artistic director, Barbara Hershey as a supportive mother and Winona Ryder in a startling role as a ballerina past her prime. This is a competent ensemble which manages to complement the leading lady’s performance.
Some may scoff the laughable melodrama in this film, but one should also see the power that cinema holds – the ability to heighten sensations through the power of sight and sound. Aronofsky and his team of filmmakers behind this project know that too well, and like the director’s previous works Pi (1998), Requeim for a Dream (2000) and The Fountain (2006), this is also one valiantly crafted art piece.
Director Aronofsky, who has been nominated for Best Director, is clearly an artist. One can appreciate his fine eye for details through cinematography (Matthew Libatique), editing (Andrew Weisblum) and score composition (Clint Mansell). The gallant approach of telling this tale of obsession is also to be lauded – it keeps you tense and edgy throughout the film’s 108 minutes, without letting loose of your emotions. When it finally lets you go in the climatic finale, you heave a huge sigh of relief, but not entirely recovered as you walk out of the theatre immensely disturbed.
(A spectacular piece of work which regales with a tale of obsession)
Reviewed by John Li