Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Sundance: Keanu Reeves Opens The Door To Trouble In Teaser Trailer For Eli Roth's 'Knock Knock' Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins 'Death Proof' Star Zoe Bell Leads Latest Additions To Quentin Tarantino's 'Hateful Eight' As Filming Begins Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Ranked From Best To Worst: Every Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Winner Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Watch: 'Saturday Night Live' Sketch 'Fanatic' Written & Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson And Starring Ben Affleck Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson Check Out These Minimalist, Old School Paperback-Style Posters For The Films Of Wes Anderson First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' First Look: Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Grimy In Alejandro González Iñárritu's 'The Revenant' The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 30 Most Anticipated Movies Of The 2015 Sundance Film Festival The 10 Best Films Of 2001 The 10 Best Films Of 2001 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment 2015 Oscar Nominees Get The Honest Poster Treatment Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Watch: Full 90-Minute Documentary 'Great Directors' With David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes And More Exclusive: Matthew Gray Gubler Has Flashbacks In Clip From 'Suburban Gothic' Exclusive: Matthew Gray Gubler Has Flashbacks In Clip From 'Suburban Gothic' The 10 Best Films Of 2000 The 10 Best Films Of 2000 "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 20 Most Anticipated Foreign Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Black Swan' Is The Grandest Ballet Of Darren Aronofsky's Career

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist December 2, 2010 at 2:47AM

This is a repost of a review that ran earlier this year during TIFF 2010. The film is in limited release starting this week.
1


This is a repost of a review that ran earlier this year during TIFF 2010. The film is in limited release starting this week.

As "Black Swan" has begun its festival rollout, Darren Aronofsky has said the film is a companion piece to "The Wrestler" and it's easy to see why. Where that film documented an athlete at the end of his career, body battered but spirit intact, here Aronofsky flips the equation, with a dancer in the best shape of her life and with the future in front of her who, in the chase for perfection, begins to mentally unravel.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is part of a coterie of ballet dancers who make up the Lincoln Center troupe. Beth (Winona Ryder), the theater's longtime star is on her way out and with a new show mounting, director and choreographer Thomas (Vincent Cassel) is looking for a new dancer to lead his new production, a stripped down version of "Swan Lake."


When Nina is chosen for the lead she is ecstatic as is her mother (Barbara Hershey), a one-time dancer and overly dedicated mother. But even before she was selected, Nina's vulnerability was clear as day. She is somewhat of an outsider with the rest of the dancers, and there are hints that things are not as they seem, with mysterious scratches and marks appearing on her back, feet and hands. And when rehearsals start her problems only get worse, as her precarious and fragile state is tested by the demanding and unforgiving Thomas, her stage mother and Nina's own quest to master the part. In Lily (Mila Kunis) she finds both a friend and a rival. Lily immediately senses Nina's deteriorating condition, and acts both as confidante while playing the angles to try and discredit her suitability for the part.

And it's in this tension-filled push and pull, between competition and collaboration, and yes, between reality and nightmare, where Aronofsky finds his sweet spot, delivering a breathless study of the cost of an artist's ardent pursuit to reach the top of their game, and positing that spirited imperfection can be more valuable than strict technical achievement. As is repeated by Thomas throughout the film, you need to let yourself go in order to fully commit, but that sacrifice may be more than you bargained for.

While early talk surrounding the film has already put it in Oscar contention, we're not so sure. Don't get us wrong, we loved the film. But its candid and frankly brave treatment of sexuality as artistic instrument and liberator will require a more open-minded audience than the Academy and their voters tend to be. And the film will also likely split audiences due to Aronofsky's highly visual and literal interpretation of Nina's mind, body and spirit battling each other right until the end. While it might play ludicrous to some, here, it's very clear that Aronofsky is conducting a grand ballet of his own, and as it builds through the final 20 minutes (you'll either be with him in these sequences or you won't) when Nina utters the last line of the film, it's a devastatingly beautiful moment.

With "Black Swan" Aronofsky has made a film that seamlessly threads his aesthetic and thematic interests into a film that is unlike any you will see this year; a ballet world thriller and a nearly supernatural look at the deteriorating mind. Aronofsky displays an addiction and obsession of a wholly different sort. Anchored by strong performances from both Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel, there's good reason why "Black Swan" is leading the talk early in the awards season run-up. Whether or not it makes it there remains to be seen, but don't let it stop you from seeing what might be the best film of Aronofsky's career. [A]

Click here for another take on on the film from TIFF.

This article is related to: Review, Actresses, Films, Black Swan, Mila Kunis


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates