Movie review of Golden Globe nominee, “Black Swan”



Natalie Moses

As odd as this may sound, there are few things in this world that I adore more than “Swan Lake,” Natalie Portman and winged back tattoos. When I found out that all three would finally be placed together in a motion picture, I was ecstatic! Though I did not see the previews, there was no doubt in my mind that the movie “Black Swan” would be an inspirational yet whimsical story of an underdog ballet dancer making it to the top. I imagined there would be a little love story on the side and a lot of pretty tutus, sparkles and pointe shoes. I was wrong.

Portman’s possessed look on the poster should have been all I needed to know that this movie is not all rainbows and butterflies. I also should have realized that Darren Aronofsky would not have picked such an amazing actress for the lighthearted, elementary role I had expected it to be. For those who have been living under a rock,“Black Swan” is about Nina Sayers, a young ballerina who is picked for the prestigious role of the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, “Swan Lake.” I have been a ballet dancer all my life, so I am no stranger to the reality of the role of the Swan Queen. It is known to be one of the most difficult roles in all of ballet to perform. This is because the prima ballerina must play the angelic, innocent role of the white swan, Odette, in addition to the devilish, seductress black swan, Odile.

The first thing to be said about the movie is that the acting is brilliant. I know from experience that physically, ballet is unbelievably demanding and takes at least a decade of blood, sweat and tears to get to the level that Portman and Mila Kunis portrayed. Even to a trained eye, it is impossible to tell the girls are professional actors and just faking their ballet skills. I was truly impressed by the way they captured the focused, self-destructive and nearly sick mentality of a true dancer.

Not only is the acting award-worthy, but the plot of the movie is genius. The story line parallels that of Tchaikovsky’s, with Odette (portrayed by Portman) being slowly tormented into turmoil by the appearance of the dark, twisted Odile (portrayed by Kunis). Vincent Cassel plays the ballet director, Thomas Leroy, who vaguely represents the prince in Swan Lake. Nina (Portman) and Lily (Kunis) are battling for his acceptance just like the two swans in the ballet compete for the prince’s love. One aspect of the ballet that is completely blown up in the movie is the sexual energy. It is subdued in the ballet but overflowing in the movie. Nina’s first homework assignment is to go home and “touch herself” to release the inner sexuality of the black swan. The now notorious lesbian sex scenes between Nina and Lily are, for lack of a better term, practically soft-core pornography. At that point in the movie, I realized I had lost my innocence.

Not unlike Sylvia Plath’s Esther in “The Bell Jar,” Nina’s downward spiral into insanity is so well portrayed that the audience can sympathize with the breakdown, and it actually begins to seem rather logical. For 108 minutes, you are Nina Sayers. Being perfect is your main goal. You have absolutely lost yourself in the process of becoming the black swan, and you are terrified.

After the initial shock of the movie, I still wasn’t sure of what to make of it. I had laughed, cried, cringed, held my breath, covered my eyes and felt unbelievably disturbed. So I went back for seconds. I knew exactly what to expect and I thought that I would love it the second time around – I was right.

Contact Natalie Moses at [email protected].