19 September 2010

Review: "Black Swan"

Black Swan was the hot ticket at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Darren Aronofsky's follow up to 2008 The Wrestler is a visually stunning and powerfully acted film. Natalie Portman, who first graced the screen as a twelve year old in 1994's Léon (or The Professional), has consistently proven herself as one of Hollywood's most talented young actors but Black Swan is her bravest and most powerful performance to date. Darren Aronofsky is a visionary American director whose previous films are widely considered cult favourites. The visual styles of Pi (1998) and Requiem for a Dream (2000) were both critically praised. He has said that he sees Black Swan as a companion to The Wrestler and had originally conceived them as one film. There are obvious similarities between the two main characters but Black Swan's dark and uniquely provocative themes would have been hard to translate to the story of The Wrestler. Though Natalie Portman is deserving of every accolade she will undoubtedly receive, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey offer incredible supporting performances. Black Swan is an intensely powerful and provocative film about a young woman's search for her own dark side. It is a film that will rest with you long after it is over and Darren Aronofsky's direction is so strong that Natalie Portman has never looked so confident on screen.

Nina Sayers (Portman) has been cast as the Swan Queen in production of Swan Lake. She is replacing Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) after Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decided she is too old. Thomas believes that Nina is the embodiment of the innocent White Swan but that she will have to work very hard to discover the darkness of the Black Swan within her. When Lily (Kunis), a new member of the ballet company, begins to covet her starring role Nina's world begins to unravel. Her mother Erica (Hershey) was once a ballerina and has become obsessive and overbearing. With Lily's help Nina begins discovering more about herself and as she goes deeper inside her own mind she slowly loses the grasp of reality.

I was in love with the idea of Black Swan after I first saw the film's trailer. I had a similar reaction to Tom Ford's A Single Man last fall. Something must be said about a trailer that can lure you into a film with so much power without revealing too much about the plot. Black Swan is a complex story with that uses dark colours and imagery to mimic Nina's descent into her own mind. Natalie Portman has never shied away from a potentially controversial role and it is obvious from the very beginning that Darren Aronofsky gave her a lot of room to grow and create Nina Sayers. Mila Kunis' Lily deserves a lot of attention as well. The film's success depends a lot on the contrast between the two characters. Nina is the naive White Swan while Lily is the sensual Black Swan. While Nina travels deeper into herself the viewer begins to question Lily and her motives and Mila Kunis has grown a lot as an actor since her days on That 70's Show. Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky's most well-crafted film with incredible imagery and powerful performances. The film feels fluid and effortless and it is obvious that Darren Aronofsky considered the entire production while creating this film. He deserves just as many accolades as Natalie Portman.

Black Swan is the best film I have seen this year.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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