Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronfsky, 2011) – Ballet dancer Nina Sayers slips into the role of White Swan with delicate grace, but her darker side threatens to destroy her.
Director Darren Aronfsky finds stunning beauty in the harrowing tale of Nina’s self-destructive downward spiral.
Dreams survive on hope. But where hope heightens into obsession, tragedy closes in. Compelled by expectations and rivalry, ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) strives towards perfection that comes at the cost of losing herself.
A minimalist story of an artist’s ambitions transforms into masterful art under the wing of director Darren Aronfsky. As seen in his past works like Requiem for a Dream, he knows to draw the invisible allure from the darkest tales. Black Swan flows with grace and takes climatic spins, playing out just like an earnest ballet performance with almost tangible beauty.
Mirrors heighten pressure that persists in the ballet room, where dancers vie with passion in the cut-throat chase after the coveted lead. Nina is chosen as the White Swan, but dread takes over relief in moments. Anxiety soon consumes her, reminding her that the role may still slip away before the stage is set.
And so the White Swan gradually fades in her reflection. The wrathful Black Swan rages behind her eyes. Nina’s life crosses into a fictional performance of Swan Lake, disconnecting truth and delusion. Visuals from light to dark add to the subtle representation of her falling into the void.
Such intensity is also owed to Clint Mansell’s take on Swan Lake. His adaptation of the iconic score skilfully oscillates between romance and tragedy. Sharp notes of gripping distress erupt from graceful strings with pointed precision. Far from unoriginal, it is unfortunate that The Academy has disqualified the exquisite soundtrack.
Natalie Portman delivers equal precision in her prime performance, portraying Nina’s increasing disillusion with credibility. Her emotional disorder is thoroughly felt in her tense and eloquent steps. In her final dance, the choreography succeeds in its deliberate intent to bring across her growing paranoia. The finale makes a chilling impression, delivering her detachment from reality with lasting impact.