“Black Swan” is a psychological thriller about a ballerina’s mental struggle to be perfect. It is a complex movie that pulls viewers in and keeps them intrigued. Director Darren Aronofsky is known for his brilliant yet shocking films, and “Black Swan” certainly fits this reputation.
Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a young, sheltered ballerina aiming for the lead in Black Swan, her company’s next production. Nina tries out for the part, and gives a great performance for the White Swan, but the director says she lacks the passion for the Black Swan. The Black Swan is supposed to be dangerous and seductive, two things Nina has never been.
Nina is so determined and focused on the art of dance that she is isolated from normal life. She lives with her controlling mother and several stuffed animals. For a virgin intent on beauty and perfection, playing the role of the Black Swan takes some serious change. Her director tries everything to get her to loosen up, be seductive, and feel passion for the part.
In her desire to embody both the innocent white swan and the evil black swan in the ballet, she begins to lose focus on reality. Between her strict mother and her lustful director, Nina has confusing and constantly contradicting pressures.
As the stress of the role increases, Nina demands more and more of herself and begins seeing her world as how she wants it to be, not how it really is. The ballerina begins a transformation that is strange and powerful to watch. Her need to fulfill the role of the Black Swan drives her to question herself and do things she never would have imagined before rehearsal for the ballet began. Here Portman’s performance is incredible, probably the best of her career. The last part of the movie is dramatic and powerful, rushing the audience to the climax.
Even without any knowledge or appreciation of ballet, viewers can understand what the director wants them to see. In the beginning, although Nina masters the movements, she is too stiff and nervous. Notably, Portman did much of her own dancing in the film.
“Black Swan” is certainly not the feel-good movie of the year. And when the credits role, viewers may be stunned and confused about what was real and what was in Nina’s head. But it is a unique and compelling experience viewers will remember.