Dancing the Dark side.
Dance can be defined in many ways and its definitions can be challenged and changed...however, I think we can agree that it is a labour of love. And for Nina (played by Natalie Portman) it becomes exactly that. Gruelling, intense and emotional, it takes a strong heart and mind to push towards the perfection sought after (especially in classical dance forms like ballet) in performance.
LesMedia, "Natalie Portman & Mila Kunis Lesbian Kiss from Black Swan" August 20, 2010 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution
Director Daryn Aronofsky (Requiem for a dream, The fountain and The Wrestler) creates a world with disillusioned characters strained
by the demands of the dance world. The pitiful Nina experiences Humiliation and punishment through her desire to be the lead in a production of Swan Lake for the company where she is a committed dancer. While she is perfect for the role of the white swan (porcelain like and fragile) its the role of the black swan (dark and sexually confident) that she struggles to embody. Things get fascinating when Aronofskys characters move into a journey and delve into what becomes a frightful nightmare. The director of the ballet company, Thomas Leroy, (played with passion by Vincent Cassel) emphasises on losing oneself in a role and pushes Nina to let go and experience her sexual self.
The psychological hold that the role has on Nina is frightening as the more she has to go through to keep it, the more she wants it. And this throws her further into being seduced by her own dark thoughts. She rebukes against her overbearing mother (played by Barbara Hershey) who herself pushes Nina as a result of her own failed dance career. You get a sense of Ninas suffocation just by looking at her bedroom (fit for a little girl complete with soft toys and pink walls) and her mother constantly peeking in. Throughout rehearsals, Ninas composure cracks and while she falls apart some very dark parts of her begins to emerge. Mila Kunis (of That 70s Show) portrays Lily; the careless, freely spirited and sexually confident dancer and becomes Ninas competitor to the role of the black swan.
There are fine performances throughout complemented by thrilling costumes, scenes where characters use sexuality as a means of displaying or discovering power and the usual touches of despair, anxiety and hallucinations in Aronofskys work. Portmans performance breathes authenticity and desperation. She lost kilograms and trained hours to physically condition her body for the role. What she achieves emotionally is powerful and she is outstanding in developing Ninas destructive nature. Look out also for Winona Ryders appearance as the disappointed prima ballerina forced into retirement and angered by the companies desire for someone fresh and young. Collectively the film is dark and enticing and is enhanced by cast who use their bodies expressively while drifting into a spectacular nightmare.