A Man and His Movies Blogs

‘Black Swan’ Movie Review: Aronofsky’s ‘Swan’ is a haunting fairy tale

By Sean Harris ’11
THE ROUNDUP

After watching “Black Swan,” the latest film from prestigious and prolific director Darren Aronofsky, it becomes clear that he secretly hates his audience.

Aronofsky has been made famous for such movies as “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Wrestler.”

He builds sympathy for broken characters, puts them within arm’s reach of escape or success and in the final act brings the angry hand of God to smite them in a fashion that would make the Cenobites jealous.

The latest victim is Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a dedicated and deeply disturbed ballerina who is given the main role in her company’s production of Swan Lake, playing the Swan Queen.

Unfortunately, this role requires her to possess a yin-yang balance between the perfection of the white swan and the passion of the black swan, requiring seduction rather than precision.

This seduction is exactly what eludes the fragile and innocent (suspiciously too innocent) Nina.

Despite the best efforts of her sleazy coach, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) to, ehem, woo the seduction out of her, real help arrives in the form of Lily (Mila Kunis) another ballerina who seems to have mastered the role of the black swan; and threatens to take away Nina’s moment in the sun.

Along with the added stress of her sinister mother (Barbara Hershey) Nina starts to go through a complete mental breakdown, and through the hallucinations, one can tell that something wicked is coming.

Will Nina realize the error of her ways in the end? Did Randy “The Ram” Robinson quit fighting at the end of “The Wrestler”?

It’s funny that the two films complement each other so well. While “The Wrestler” was gritty, “Black Swan” is fantastical, a dark fairy tale that further explores the slippery slope of a job that comes with an expiration date.

“Black Swan” is also about chasing perfection, a further dimension that allows Aronofsky to use body horror again. Nina’s dreams of ballet are brought together with many sickening crunches of the feet and one killer hangnail.

Portman shines as Nina, a wounded girl who is desperately trying to attain perfection and hold onto her fragile innocence. The film makes it clear that she has been hurt before and failure is not an option.

The real star, Aronofsky, only cements his position in Hollywood. He is a true master of his craft, and his craft is in creating Grade-A tragedies. God only knows what he intends to do with “The Wolverine,” due out 2012.

The film is not perfect, sometimes beating the theme to death with the costumes and sets. There’s also too much going on, especially present towards the end when it decides to go full-tilt crazy.

This does provide some food for thought, but it’s hard to decipher the message and meaning of some of the more crazy events, especially since the clarity on some of the characters is muddled.

“Black Swan” delivers on everything audiences have come to expect from Darren Aronofsky. Beautiful and nightmarish, just don’t expect a happy ending.

4 out of 5 horseshoes