Black Swan Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan Darren Aronofsky
Continuing to explore his favourite themes of addiction and obsession, Darren Aronofsky (one of cinema's most assured stylistic architects) utilizes all of the amassed tools of his trade in the creation of Black Swan. By combining elements of The Wrestler's intense personal drama with the surreal psychosis of Pi, Aronofsky has bred a unique creature. His interest in the harsh toll taken on body and mind of professional athletic performers takes a darker turn in the flamboyantly emotional world of ballet. Natalie Portman's Oscar-winning turn as Nina Sayers is fantastic, overly restrained one minute then shattered the next in her portrait of an anal-retentive, paranoid perfectionist. Nina is a sheltered woman who acts, and is treated by her mother, like she's still a child. Hints at underlying mental illness manifest as Nina stresses over her chances of landing the part of the Swan Queen in a new production of Swan Lake. Part of the genius of Black Swan, and a criticism for some, is that it uses the story of Swan Lake to tell a body-horror thriller set within the production of Swan Lake. That's some meta-Lynch-ian storytelling that can easily be missed upon first viewing if one's unfamiliar with the play. The execution, however, more closely reflects the highly controlled, subtle surrealism employed by Roman Polanski. Tension is built and scares are delivered via clever editing, suggestion, unsettling sound cues and the judicious application of special effects. Oh, let's not forget Clint Mansell's brilliant score. Playing with the bombastic motifs of Swan Lake, Mansell deftly supports the mood, enforcing the emotional rollercoaster that is Nina's mind. Using a handheld, documentary-style approach for intimate scenes grounds the film's more fantastical elements and gives the dance sequences a raw urgency. Mila Kunis is well cast as the embodiment of everything Nina lacks and needs ― sensual, joyous abandon ―in order to dance the Black Swan. Likewise, Vincent Cassel lends his role as pervy director Thomas Leroy a sense of whimsy, where it would have been easy to go full douche. The sole feature included on the DVD release is an excellent three-part documentary. "Metamorphosis" starts with the seeding of the idea: Aronofsky read Dostoevsky's The Double and then went to see Swan Lake. Eschewing typical feature fodder, crew and cast interviews are interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage and detailed FX breakdowns, including a cool unused shot, all in service of demonstrating what went into the making of Black Swan and what it meant to the participants. Nobody wastes breath with pointless promotional banter, and the production designer brings up an interesting argument regarding the difference between "directors" and "filmmakers." It's possible to nitpick the stories Aronofsky chooses to tell, but there's no denying he's firmly among that elite class of world-building visionaries who don't simply make, they create. (Fox)