Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: Black Swan

I'm bad at reviews, specifically the part where you summarize the movie without giving everything away and still make it interesting to read. That being said, I'm not going to review Darren Aronofsky's latest film Black Swan, I will however comment on several aspects of it.

Let's get one thing straight right from the start here, Black Swan isn't a film about Ballet. It's a film where ballet figures heavily, but Black Swan is as much about ballet as Kubrick's 2001 is about space. This is a film about identity, obsession, and madness, themes Aronofsky has proven himself adept at depicting in the past to great effect. Unlike his previous effort, the character portrait piece The Wrestler, Black Swan sees Aronofsky concentrating less on the physicality of the character and more on the metaphysical and succeeds with almost Bergman-esque precision. Black Swan is ultimately a unique thriller where the protagonist's ultimate rival is herself. Aronofsky deftly ramps up the tension throughout the film primarily through the constant use of close-ups, creating not only a claustrophobic effect in the viewer, but also affixing our gaze almost interminably to the character of Nina's face. Natalie Portman deserves all the praise she gets for this role as she completely owns the broken creature that is Nina and succeeds in the challenging task of making us feel both compassionate and uncomfortable as she loses her grip on her own sense of self in pursuit of perfection as the titular Black Swan. In addition to the close ups and the stellar performances from Portman, Kunis, and the entire cast, Aronofsky's use of score and deft editing techniques feels more at home here than in any of his previous films. The last 20 minutes alone were a tangle of quick edits reminiscent of Aronofsky's oft-times difficult to watch Requiem for a Dream.

In the end, Black Swan was a film that left me with a grin on my face and a lot to analyze in my head and was one of only a handful of films I've seen this year that I would consider to be truly Oscar worthy. It's better late then never I presume, but I suppose this year we're going for caliber over quantity. There are still a few awards nominees for me to check out yet this year, but if Black Swan is any indication, the studios saved the best for last in 2010.

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