Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movie Review: Black Swan

Don't bring this guy, no matter how suave and worldly he may seem.

Black Swan is, without a doubt, the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any good horror movies (or any horror movies, for that matter), but even if I had, Black Swan would blow them all away. However, it’s a different kind of scary, one that makes it hard to place genre-wise. “Psychological thriller” is the term being bandied around to describe it, and that’s roughly accurate, but doesn’t quite capture the depth of it. Straight-up warning: Black Swan is definitely not for younger viewers.

Black Swan is in part a creative retelling of the ballet “Swan Lake.” If you’re one of our higher-class readers and actually know that plot, then you’re way ahead of the game. Also probably way too cool to actually read this blog, so I’ll give a rundown. A beautiful young woman is cursed, transforming her into a swan, and the only way out is true love. Of course she meets a prince, and the story sounds simple from there. But it isn’t. Because there’s an evil twin, the Black Swan. The Black Swan, a sultry and seductive little minx of a swan, swoops in and makes off with the prince before the curse can be lifted, and the white swan escapes the curse the only way she has left: suicide.

The “White Swan” is played by Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a young dancer finally getting her first big part. Nina is perfect for the white swan, a beautiful, precise dancer who works tirelessly to achieve perfection. However, there’s a catch. You see, in the production, the white and black swans are to be played by the same dancer. And Nina isn’t as suited to play the fiery, seductive black swan. As such, the first third of the movie plays like a sexual awakening story, with her director (played by Vincent Cassel) attempting to get her to loosen up in, ahem, unorthodox ways. Along the way, she meets Lily (Mila Kunis), the perfect dancer for the Black Swan, full of energy and passion, but short on practice. The tension between these two actors is fantastic.

Not pictured: Oscars being eyed hungrily.
However, Lily isn’t actually the titular Black Swan. Nina is. And the second third of the movie plays much more like a psychological horror movie, as the Black Swan in Nina fights to emerge, breaking with her prim and proper mother (played by Barbara Hershey) and even the white swan within herself. This part is where Natalie Portman truly shines, in the performance of her career, and a definite possibility for Best Actress. Some parts in here can be genuinely terrifying, one scene in particular involving moving paintings giving me heebie-jeebies so hard the hair on my arms hasn’t sat flat since. If you don’t like scary, Black Swan is not for you. On the other hand, if you do like scary, Black Swan is a truly delightfully done movie, though not necessarily a standard horror flick (for a lamentation on horror movies, see Peter’s excellent article).

The eerie visuals and camera shots, especially the ones involving mirrors, are terrifyingly well-done, and the acting performances are phenomenal. One of the most intriguing aspects of the movie is the soundtrack, mostly muted and secondary, but on occasions bombastic and unnerving. I suspect that if I knew the music to Swan Lake the score would sound eerily familiar, but it is breath-taking whether or not you're well-cultured.

But it’s not until the last third, the performance, where the movie truly shines (and possibly confuses). This part is the performance, where Swan Lake is performed for the first time, and the Black Swan and White Swan clash. I don’t want to give too much away, and I sort of want at least some of you to go see the movie, but if you are a little squeamish, the ending may be worth screaming through the first half of the film. Done with artistic grace and style, the ending is confusing and a tad unnerving, but it is quite possibly, in the words of Nina Sayers, “perfect.”

Overall Review: Like

Death and Glory,


  1. wow man you give the perfect review of this flick,love to Watch Movies like this one.

  2. This is one of the best movies made in the past ten years. Its art is mesmerizing. watch Black Swan Online ,Its entry into the psyche of Portman nearly singularly unique.


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