Strange Cinema: Black Swan (2010)

This is part of an ongoing review series for the films featured on 366weirdmovies.com‘s Certifiably Weird list. My goal is to watch and review all of them (even if it kills me). These reviews may contain spoilers.


Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, & Winona Ryder

What’s it about?
Perfectionist ballerina Nina Sayers scores the dual role of the White Swan and the Black Swan in a production of Swan Lake, but the pressure begins to tear her apart, and soon she loses touch with reality.

Is it any good?
Let’s just get this out of the way: I have a huge girl crush on Natalie Portman. Her role in this film is possibly the best in her career at this point, and she definitely deserved that Oscar. So I’m a little biased, okay? But Black Swan is a great film for a lot of other reasons, too.

I’m a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky’s work. He’s one of those directors who knows how to make the mundane dark and mysterious, but not in a cliché way. Ballet in itself is not that terrifying, but if you add psychological terror (shifts in perspective, manipulation of shadows, time lapse), it can be very disconcerting. I wouldn’t call this a horror film, but it has the perfect amount of suspense and intensity.

The strongest aspects of this film were its contrasting themes of perfectionism and maturation. Nina takes ballet so seriously she has this machine-like precision that’s almost unhealthy. Everything she does is so structured, and her ultimate goal is to just let go. The sensuality and mystery of the Black Swan is meant to appear fluid, and though she does achieve this in the end, it ultimately destroys her.

The maturation theme isn’t as prominent as the perfectionism theme, but it’s still incredibly important in terms of character development. In the beginning, Nina perfectly embodies the innocent White Swan, both in the way she dresses and her personal life. I mean, the girl still lives with her mother and sleeps with stuffed animals. She’s childlike, and in order to become the Black Swan, she has to grow up. But she doesn’t just mature in her onstage performance–she also matures in her personal life. Nina dumps her collection of stuffed animals down the garbage chute and has a creepy one-night stand with Lily (Mila Kunis).

The dance scenes were incredible, especially the performance at the end of the film. And the symbolism was heavy (perhaps a bit too heavy?). When Nina falls while dancing the White Swan, that slip-up can be seen as her “fall from grace.” Her Black Swan ends up being perfect (and that shot of her with the wings is spectacular), but when she jumps from her perch as the White Swan at the end, that is her finally letting go.

Great film, great performances, and one weird twist. See it if you haven’t already!

Grade: A (for chilling performances and killer dance moves)
Weirdness Score: 8/10 (or, weird enough to make ballet frightening)

[Read the more in-depth 366 Weird Movies review here.]

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