Black Swan is a unique movie. I’m not sure if in the history of American cinema there has been a feature film starring Hollywood actors that is essentially an extended metaphor. Yeah, I guess the Transformers movies remind us about the ever changing nature of life and the Big Momma’s House movies show us how hard a time an African American man can have fitting into society, but that’s about it.
Black Swan tells the story about a ballerina dealing with the onset of madness, but more so it is not very subtly about the creative process. I’m not sure if I necessarily agree with the movie’s thesis that in order to create truly great art one has to let oneself go completely and utterly. That hard work and technique are poor substitutes for daring and spontaneity. But I throw a bouquet of flowers at her feet for provoking these questions.
It’s filmed in unflattering documentary style lighting which would have been really effective if the star of Black Swan wasn’t Natalie Portman. Fans of Ms. Portman will be pleased the movie features scenes of her masturbating and having some girl on girl action, but I think the movie could have been much more effective if an unknown played the part of Nina. Because while the message of the movie is for art to transcend to greatness, one must become so immersed in the art that it becomes reality. With a known star as Nina we can’t escape the sensation that we are watching a movie starring the little girl from The Professional all grown up.
Natalie Portman is eminently watchable and I’m sure she’ll win the Oscar for the part, but at no time in the movie did I forget I was watching Natalie Portman and instead feel I was watching a character called Nina (On the other hand, Vincent Cassel, oozes the part of a sleazy French director. I would like a cinema verite sequel of him auditioning future members of his ballet company as soon as possible.).
Watching this movie coupled with 127 Hours made me feel like I’m a squeamish sissy and not because I found myself enjoying a movie about ballet. Just like I found 127 Hours incredibly difficult to sit through because of the gore, Black Swan was hard to watch without shutting my eyes and squirming in my seat because of its depiction of madness. Reading about people who can’t stop itching themselves because they imagine bugs on their skin gave me a sick feeling in my stomach, actually watching it made me feel even worse.
The director Darren Aronofsky specializes in making audiences uncomfortable. He learned from earlier failures and just finished a one two punch with The Wrestler and Black Swan that rank up there with any other director’s consecutive movie streak. His next movie, about the superhero Wolverine, will hopefully combine the pathos of his recent classics. Pain, regret, madness, and excessive violence could make for one of the most unique comic book movies yet.