Review: How does Natalie Portman's new film, Black Swan, stack up?

Review: How does Natalie Portman's new film, Black Swan, stack up?

February 14, 2011  |  By Moscow Ballet

So naturally, the Academy Award-nominated film, Black Swan, piqued our interest. Here, we weigh in on the new film.

So naturally, the Academy Award-nominated film, Black Swan, piqued our interest. Here, we weigh in on the new film.

Director Darren Aronofsky is not known for taking on easy fare in his cinematic work. In the movie The Wrestler, Aronofsky unflinchingly digs into the gritty underbelly of the boxing world. In his masterpiece Requiem for a Dream, the characters are tormented by drug abuse and are sent spiraling into a hallucinatory nightmare. Aronofsky’s newest work, Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, expands on his fascination with cerebral anguish and physical pain.

Natalie Portman as Odile, the Black Swan

Black Swan uncovers a highly stylized version of the reality faced by a professional dancer in New York City. Nina, played by Portman, struggles to define and express her artistic vision in an extremely competitive environment. Co-stars Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel offer an exquisite counterpoint to Portman’s Odette/Odile.

In keeping with Aronofsky’s penchant for expressing emotional trauma in glaring, blunt detail, Nina is slowly transformed over the course of Black Swan. She begins the story in a heartfelt search for artistic purity and perfection in her performance of the classical ballet, Swan Lake. As she is influenced by the lecherous Artistic Director Thomas Leroy, Nina is shown to descend into madness, hallucinating on the street as the pressure to achieve perfect balletic poise starts to shatter her ability to function.

Moscow Ballet‘s Odette, the White Swan

This fictionalized account of the inner workings of a professional ballet company are overblown and over dramatic but provide quite an entertaining, squirm-inducing experience. Despite the film’s over-the-top audacity, the adversity and trauma are rooted in the real life experience of too many ballet dancers.

In Black Swan, Portman struggles with an eating disorder all too familiar in the dance community. This extremely unhealthy and unproductive vice poetically underscores the dichotomy of this sick dancer’s position. While striving for physical and artistic perfection by corrupting the intake of food, Nina simultaneously destroys her mind and body with the very means by which she intends to achieve perfection.

All aspiring dancers face the question of food intake. There is no question that caloric intake must be regulated to maintain optimum physical condition. However, the best dancers are only able to achieve their lofty status by training in a safe way, and eating in a healthy manner.

Natalie Portman as Odile, the Black Swan

In summary, Black Swan is a dark, dramatized and utterly thrilling film about over-reaching ambition. The metaphors in the movie are as strong as the visually haunting imagery and as beautifully crafted as the real dancers, showcasing their finely honed art in the film.