Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black Swan

There is a bit I would like to work out involving this film at a later date. I can say that it is definitely an unsettling work of art with so much to say about identity and passion (and repression, obviously). I felt it was as though Nina was unraveling, but there was nothing at her base and therefore she unraveled into nothing. Pushing to perfection without passion is rewarded with emptiness and exhaustion, passion without joy is madness. Nina does not know who she is, but she has to have passion to play the Black Swan. Her search for passion is fruitless, in a way, because she has no love to base it upon. Once the film culminates in her discovery of passion, her pinnacle, she has disappeared into the fog of madness-- she has transformed from all performance to all feeling, with no anchor in between.

I did find the film a little... melodramatic and oversexed, frankly, and the constant bombardment of bizarre sexuality made me squirm (Nina's instructor basically assaulting her at numerous points, the very creepy girl-on-girl scene, the way too creepy beast-on-girl scene....), BUT I find that all of that was necessary (or mostly necessary) in context. Nina is uncomfortable with herself, and thus all representation of sexuality in the film is actually fairly shocking.

I very much loved the use of mirrors in the film, and Nina's hallucinations of seeing her own face on others. Seeing Mila Kunis and Portman in the same frame together was uncanny at moments-- in reality they do not look that much alike, but thanks to tweaking and teasing, as an audience member I was wondering if Portman's face was transposed on Kunis's even when it wasn't.

Using Swan Lake as the structure for the film was what I most enjoyed. Being only basically familiar with the ballet, I'm sure further education on it would only be more enlightening. The use of mainly Swan Lake music throughout the film was also a very good and effective idea.

I was not especially fond of some of the special effects-- mainly the one involving Portman's legs. Like some of the melodrama, this effect took me from the film for a moment, despite Affronsky's best efforts. Still, even with all of this outrageous material Affronsky is nothing if not brilliant with atmosphere. The cold, strangely masochistic world of a ballerina is even in reality somewhat frightening, I think, and I found Affronsky's presentation of it insightful.

Finally, I was not very impressed by Mila Kunis. She is very likable, but she really doesn't do all that much in this movie. Stop it with the accolades. If she gets nommed for best supporting, I will be in awe. Very silly idea. Portman, on the other hand, was very good, and one can clearly see the blood sweat and tears she put into the role, I can imagine it was emotionally traumatizing. Still, I found her as always too self-aware! Like Nicole Kidman, Portman is very good at displaying emotion but I rarely feel connected with her performance, I rarely feel as though she is FEELING what Nina is feeling rather than just crying on cue. She is a good actress, I simply don't respond to her acting style. Nevertheless, she did pull off some really great moments, namely my favorite, when Nina has found out that she has been tapped for the Swan Queen/Black Swan role. She looks at the casting sheet, then retreats to the bathroom where she locks herself in to call her mother. Crying, she says into the phone: "He picked me, mommy..." I was moved by the sight of her elegant, ballerina exterior cracking to reveal the hopeful Nina. Vincent Cassel was also very good, and it was nice to see Winona Ryder out and about again.

Mostly, I am completely wild about the ending. It was perfect, I thought, utterly satisfying. I would not have appreciated the film nearly as much if it had been any different. Though it doesn't "explain" anything, really, this is not a movie where everything needs that kind of explaination. It really is merely an elaborate, melodramatic show. And that is quite all right.


  1. I'm seeing this tomorrow! And I'm so excited =].

  2. Ah! Good! Tell me what you think!!

  3. I really liked it. I have to say, I was not a fan of the ending - I mean, it works because as she became the black swan so does she become the white swan, but overall -- I think it's just a pet peeve of mine - suicide endings (whether they be real or imagined, as I haven't quite determined from the film) Rub me the wrong way, I guess.

    I liked the special effects of the harsh worlds of ballerinas - it made me squirm. They didn't take me out of the film - mostly because it shows the physical duress that she is under which was like a metaphor for the emotional duress which shattered her. Or, as I think it, in the process of shattering since she seemed to be seeing things even at the beginning of the film.

    And even though I knew that Winona Ryder was in the film, I totally didn't recognize her - at all - and she usually has such a distinctive voice for me. I like Mila Kunis (but, then, I don't keep up with all the awards and stuff so maybe that's why): did you have a lesbian wet dream about me? Oh, you so did! Was I good?

    I laughed. It felt wrong, but I did.