Black Swan, a dance film like no other

-Emily Howard contributed with this report

Received with applause when it previewed in September 2010 at the Venice International Film Festival, Golden Globe Nominated director Darren Aronofsky’s new film, “Black Swan”, is without a doubt a terrifying but astoundingly elegant piece of cinema.

The film opens with that true, artistic, film-festival feel; classy minimalist style credits with close and personal camera work. From then on the film simply goes from strength to strength and oozes sophistication and style.


Black Swan is a psychological thriller about the lead role of The Swan Princess. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The story revolves around the trials of a prestigious New York ballet company as they work on a production of the ballet classic, “The Swan Princess”. It focuses on the dedicated but repressed dancer Nina, portrayed flawlessly by Natalie Portman as she pushes her physical and mental limits in the search for the ultimate perfection when she is cast as the highly sought-after role of the Swan Queen. A role which demands a contrasting portrayal of the innocent White Swan and the seductive Black Swan.

Newcomer Lily, a free spirited dancer portrayed by Mila Kunis, has the dance style and personality that matches the Black Swan ideally in director Thomas’ eyes. Played by French actor Vincent Cassel, Thomas is constantly critical of Nina’s overly rigid style of dance and persistently compares Nina’s technique to the passionate, free style of Lily’s.

Under the critical eye of Thomas and the pressure placed on Nina by her own ruthless ambition, Nina finds herself becoming increasingly distressed, losing herself entirely in order to find the true essence of the Black Swan.

Any scepticism towards Black Swan and its description of a “psychological thriller” should immediately be dropped. Aronofsky has accomplished an astounding feat, creating a perfect balance between the horrific and the beautiful. Nightmarish images coexist with a dancers beautiful passion and desire to dance.

The result is truly spine tingling. There is something indescribably unnerving about the way the story shifts from scenes of murder, drug taking, self-harming and even a lesbian sex scene to beautifully choreographed ballet routines and Nina’s daily routine, monitored carefully by her incredibly over-protective mother.

The choreography doesn’t overwhelm or distract the audience with overly fancy footwork, a frequent flaw in other dance films. The dance element in Black Swan is carefully included to further develop the story and provide a real depth. Every step is deliberate and the ratio of plot development to dance is perfect and the few dance routines shown in full do not seem to overstay their welcome.

Constantly beautiful, often terrifying and always entirely intriguing, Black Swan is without doubt a dance film like no other. An elegant, dark tale of personal growth and fierce competition and rivalry, it highlights the thrilling concept of unhealthy narcissism and beating your own worst enemy- yourself. A truly sophisticated film that definitely leaves a lasting impression long after the final credits.

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