(MA) Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel
Rarely does a film come that transcends its own art form into reality. In Darren Aronofsky’s disturbing masterpiece, Black Swan, it’s a matter of life impersonating art for both its lead character and actress.
Natalie Portman delivers a transcending performance as Nina, a shy but highly ambitious ballerina in a New York dance company, who lives and breathes her art form. Portman puts her body and mind on the line for the role of a lifetime, training up to eight hours a day for over a year to learn ballet.
Nina is a strong contender for the role of swan queen in the production of Swan Lake but faces some artistic opposition from dance director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel). After uncovering Nina’s darker side, Leroy contrives to exploit Nina’s fragility to his advantage by dumping his prima ballerina and off-stage partner, and appointing Nina his new swan queen.
Nina’s joy is short-lived as Leroy pushes her to physical and emotional extremes — extremes she needs to master for the dual role of both the white swan and her evil twin.
Unable to please the tyrannical Leroy, Nina reaches breaking point when his attention turns to newcomer and rival ballerina Lily, played by Mila Kunis (That ’70s Show). Lily’s charisma, social abilities, passion and even her technical flaws in ballet make her the exact opposite of Nina. And as opposites go, Nina can’t seem to resist the distorted friendship that springs between herself and her rival.
But beneath the lyrical grace and discipline of Nina’s movements lies something dark and brooding. Nina’s inner demons finally catch up with her — demons that surface, causing her to break out in a rash and play havoc with her mind.
Making matters worse, the 25 year-old lives with her stage mother, Erica (performed by a very creepy Barbara Hershey). Think Carrie and Carrie’s deranged mother, who, like Black Swan’s Erica, infantilises the emotionally unstable Nina.
Portman and her co-stars deliver strong performances in this psychological drama cross thriller. Aronofsky once again captivates his audience with a brilliantly chosen cast, lavish sets, and the realism and intricacies of his subject matter. His films always leave you wanting for more: most intensely, more answers.