Monday, 7 March 2011

My date with 'Black Swan'... was so good, I sat with people and only got mildly cross about their unnecessary restless movements.

I looooooove high brow trashiness. Falling for 'Black Swan' was easy, it won't please everyone and  clearly not ballet dancers but very simply, there hasn't been many films made about ballet, or with ballet in, since ' The Red Shoes' in goodness knows, 1948 or something? All stops have been pulled out,  above and beyond some of the criticisms of the dancing,  I'm pretty sure people will watch it and enjoy the deranged brilliance of Natalie Portman.

Yes it is a soap opera of the arts ( re fond memories of  the 75 hour epic Amadeus)  and completely extravagant  in places but it does encourage rethinking misconceptions about how boring ballet allegedly is. I also think it will prompt people to check out 'Swan Lake' of which the film is loosely based; all this while throwing in a story of a woman's descent into madness to the standard of Rosemary's Baby. Too much perhaps? No way, I love it.

I do think the grumpy professional dancers need to give Natalie a break really, a film with dancing will always spark rows over  'actor verses dancer' casting. If you want to watch ballet, you need to see 'Swan Lake', if you want to see a good film, go for 'Black Swan'; with untrained eyes, you will see a rather beautiful glimpse into the darker world of ballet.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman)  is the central character in a film that's main issue is the pursuit of perfection and control; control of herself particularly in regard to her sexuality, a knock on from her abusive mother (Barbara Hershey) who is herself a retired ballet dancer that blames her daughter for her short lived career.

Although Nina is a wonderful White Swan,  to acquire the darkness of  Black Swan and be The Swan Queen, she has to find her debauched alter ego and this is where the action and spiralling madness begins; scenes of vomiting and self harming, a psychotic mother making cruel adjustments to ballet shoes leading to the infamous hallucinatory lesbian sex and masturbating without realising your mother is in the room ( you cheeky monkey director Darren Aronofsky ) However, joking aside from this obvious 'get the lads in to watch something a bit arty erotic', these scenes are done tastefully with very little nudity and cleverly shot to show her main competitor Lily's (Mila Kunis ) face flashing to her own at the height of orgasm.

The blurring of reality and fantasy is superbly done with snatches of the dark Nina mostly by the use of mirrors. A wonderfully insane 'Old Swan' Beth (Winona Ryder) has a smaller but compelling part, again showing the pressure on women to remain 'the little princess'.

Without giving too much away, her need to be the perfect Swan Queen leads to extreme paranoia in a competitive field where some are out to get or push her; her mother with her cruelty, her teacher (Vincent Cassel) with his predatory teasing half-seduction to force her to lose control;

'Go home and touch yourself. Live a Little'.

That wins my favourite saying of the week, it's only Monday and I've already managed to say it twice in different contexts.

Her madness envelops and escalates when the wild Lily takes her out and persuades her to take drugs. Nina finally makes a stand  against her mother (but still barricades herself into her bedroom) with the punishment that she doesn't wake Nina to get to her performance in time.


In some ways the portrayal of women in this film is problematic in the modern world; they are all either insane or whorish muddled in with jealous and obsessive but  Tchaikovsky's 'Swan Lake' was written in the late 1800's. Based on Russian folk tales; witches, beauties and evil mothers all clamour for the Prince's attention, to loosely base a film today on this would always leave a bitter taste for some feminist thought.

Nina does achieve perfection to fatalistic extreme proportions as the film closes with her mother's tears of joy and Nina's final line, 'I felt it. Perfect. I was Perfect.'

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Starring :
Natalie Portman
Vincent Cassel
Mila Kunis
Barbara Hershey

Highly recommended from someone who doesn't like sitting next to people to watch films. This movie was good enough to stop me killing  people for loud breathing, unnecessary coughing, embarrassed giggling and fidgeting... so go go see. 

*Little reminder lovely readers...don't forget to jump on anything purple in the text, it's a link to something related that will be interesting.*


  1. Goose bumps. I can't believe I still haven't seen this. The makeup and costumes alone are enough for me. But your comparison to Rosemary's Baby makes me think I need to run out and see this right now.

  2. Goose bumps teehee...I now understand why people think feathers are creepy :) And yes, feeling the tutu love... Go see it :)