Um. Wow. Can I just say… wow. (What, that’s not enough? You want more detail? Ok I guess…)
Let me just preface myself by noting that, acting-wise, Natalie Portman’s performance is amazing. Mila Kunis- equally stunning. Barbara Hershey as the creepy, crazy, problemed mom is also impeccable. And, I even commend Vincent Cassel as the brilliant and passionate director. I was unfamiliar with the actor’s work prior to this film, but will definitely be keeping an eye on him because I’m officially convinced that he’s great. And hey, while we’re on this roll of praise, I’ll go ahead and divulge my intense awe at the magnificence of the cinematography, editing, and mise-en-scene.
Yet, despite this seemingly stunning first impression, I cannot recommend this film. Black Swan follows the journey of budding star ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) as she prepares for her first lead role as the Swan Queen in the famous ballet Swan Lake. However, the pressure to look and act perfect in every way compounds Nina’s pre-existing self-esteem and psychological issues. Her mother (Barbara Hershey) is a wannabe living desperately through her daughter and preventing Nina’s growth into an adult by forcing her to act like a child. When new girl Lily (Mila Kunis) joins the company, Nina falls victim to her bad girl ways and descends further into emotional and psychological distress, which may either jeopardize, or possibly even assist, her debut performance.
Over the course of the film, the viewer follows Nina’s journey from innocent ingenue to diabolical serpent, including her dabbling into self-inflicted violence, paranoia, and several psychological issues I don’t even have names or descriptions for. The imagery is incredibly realistic, which makes watching Nina harm herself mentally, and especially physically (think lots of blood…), extremely painful. Mentally anguishing. Terrifying. I actually contemplated leaving the theater for a moment due to the intensely violent images. Upon exiting the building after the credits, I felt like I needed an IV of rainbows straight t0 the heart to ever be able to smile at the sight of sunshine again. (And I’m one of the most optimistic, positive people you’ll probably every meet.)
So, in summation, Black Swan is a brilliantly orchestrated movie. Props to everyone involved for taking such a risk with contemporary film in such a realistic and successful manner- in every way from acting to editing, cinematography to directing. The film team probably deserves almost every award they will no doubt be nominated for. However, as an actress myself, the magic of cinema has always come from its value in escapism. I want to enjoy sitting in a theater discovering a new journey and experiencing the characters. This doesn’t mean that all films need to be happy, but some redeeming note of optimism or at least explanation is needed to make this film remotely tolerable and the worth the intense mental disturbia, for me at least.
I’m extremely curious… Have any of you seen this movie and what did you think? Would you recommend it despite the overwhelming sense of depression, or tell your friends to save themselves the anguish and pass? Do movies like this serve any purpose to viewers, and if so, what?
P.S. In completely random non-related and happy news, did you hear about all those people who won $150 in that insane mega million lottery by playing the numbers from LOST? (I’m a LOST fanatic, and television will never be the same without it.) Isn’t that crazy? I’m kicking myself for a) not buying a ticket and b) not playing the freaking LOST numbers!!!! Here’s a link to a CNN article about it: Eerie ‘Lost” echoes in Mega Millions drawing.