A psychological thriller set in the world of New York City Ballet, BLACK SWAN stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a featured dancer who finds herself locked in a web of competitive intrigue with a new rival at the company (Mila Kunis). The film takes a thrilling and at times terrifying journey through the psyche of a young ballerina whose starring role as the duplicitous swan queen turns out to be a part for which she becomes frighteningly perfect.
For the first time in many years I was tempted to walk out of this thing well before the end and ask for a refund. Be warned that this is a very painful and disturbing viewing experience. The scenes lapse in and out of reality and fantasy with no clue as to which you happen to be in at the moment. Many scenes were shot with a shaky handheld camera, which was very distracting. (Need a SteadyCam??) The point of view at times is that of an obsessive psychotic, with bizarre close ups. This is a pointless film that is poorly edited, tedious and is pure torture to sit through. Just awful. Go only if you are masochistic.
This movie really left me thinking as well as feeling somewhat paranoid myself, which is unusual as I am generally very into thrillers.
It is powerful on so many different levels, and apart from being beautifully shot, its intensity not only keeps the viewer engaged; it creates a sort of state of strong yet long-lasting emotion. We as the audience start to associate with a character that's really not even plausible, or in any way positive. Do we feel sorry for Nina Sayers, the "Swan Queen"? Possibly, at times. But generally, we become immersed in her world of illusory, destructive visions.
I was surprised at the fact that this movie takes it to a very personal level. It is more about Nina's struggle vs herself rather than external factors. (And in that way I found the short synopsis given on the internet misleading). Yes, there is a rival ballerina, but in the end of the day, it is Nina's own mental issues and her perception of herself that are at stake.
Now, there are parts that felt artificial/not crucial to the story to me, such as the scenes in the hospital. I also felt that the relationship with the mother is highly important here, and complex. So I was disappointed that in the end, apart from the one shot of her sitting in the audience, there isn't any closure. The mother is extremely caring for her daughter, yet she is portrayed as this almost evil character ("TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT"). Then again, is it just the way Nina sees her? Is the mother still haunted by her own career in ballet? I think, the mother-daughter relationship could've been explored further.
At the same time, the acting in this movie is absolutely stunning. When Portman looks at herself in the mirror with bloodshot eyes, I could really feel the intensity of the moment, and that Nina is constantly on edge. She tries to control herself and her life. She wants to be perfect. But realistically, Nina has a very inverted version of what 'perfect' is. She is constantly in conflict with herself, whether it be the look of her own body (here we wonder if she is bulimic as well), her age, or sexuality. She is so uncomfortable, that it becomes a physical issue where she actually hurts herself.
This movie isn't necessarily about 'ballet', it is entirely about Nina. Especially after seeing the ending of the film, I think that this is a movie about a delusional, extremely 'backwards' and haunting world that Nina lives in. It's her world, her dreams, and ultimately her nightmares. Nina can't take stress very well, and she is obviously not suited for the profession. Some will argue that it an 'artistic frustration' and in the end she does the job. However, this movie almost screams "facts aside, look closer! Focus on the emotion". It is no mistake that we don't get to see much through other character's eyes. We are forced to watch it as Nina.
"Black Swan" is one of those movies that you need to see, as soon as possible, while it's still out in the theatres. Whether I liked it or not, I would recommend it to anyone who's into film as an art form. I predict lots of fierce discussion around it.