Black Swan is the story of how a ballerina takes her dancing from brilliant to even better, which is not much of a journey by anyone’s standards.
With so little to work with, and only one dimensional characters to tell the tale, this film flails around for two arduous hours, much like a dying swan, with only the fall of the curtain to put it out of its misery.
Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose life is completely consumed with dance, and when Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace his prima ballerina for his next Swan lake production, Nina is his first choice.
Although Nina is the perfect white swan, she struggles to create the passion needed to depict the black swan and is faced with constant criticism from her artistic director.
The cleverly cut trailer of this film makes it look like a psychological thriller, which is totally misleading. It’s actually an extremely dark, slow paced drama, with some ludicrous scenes thrown in to try and create tension that simply does not exist.
An example of this is when Nina visits the ex-prima ballerina in hospital. Loud ‘Swan Lake’ music plays as she lifts the sheet, inch by inch, to look at the ballerina’s legs, which she already knows are damaged.
The music gets louder and louder until she sees some bleeding cuts and then she runs out, accompanied by a musical crescendo. This scene contributes nothing to the story and only serves to illuminate how lame the writing really is.
Much of what happens lacks logic. Nina’s mother initially suffocates, then sabotages, then she’s supportive.
At one stage Nina appears to have been sexually liberated but later this is contradicted. She is initially neurotic, possibly self-harming and then becomes psychotic, but it’s never clear what has really happened to her and what she has imagined happened.
But the most unenjoyable aspect of this film is Nina herself. She is eternally miserable, subservient, fearful and usually on the verge of/in tears.
Even when she is made the prima ballerina she is angst-ridden and weepy and it makes you wonder how she’d have reacted if she had won the lottery. Not with joy, for sure.
The greatest director in the world can’t save a bad script, but Darren Aronofsky, could have at least got Nina to crack a smile once in a while, and not picking up on something this obvious shows a complete lack of perception.
Aronofsky also directed the brilliantly written and performed Wrestler, which brings his contribution into question and also questions how over rated directors really are. Perhaps if the entertainment industry were to stop spelling their title with a capital ‘D’ , they might not all be quite so puffed up.
USA – 3 December 2010
UK – 21 January 2011