Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Black Swan - Movie Review

Black Swan
Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
Movie Making:   5 out of 5 stars
Morality Rating: Very offensive

Leaving the theater following my viewing of "Black Swan" my mind was reeling. What had I just witnessed? The frenzied portrayal by Natalie Portman of the downward spiral of her character "Nina" was both inspired and horrifying. In my mind, there is no doubt that she is going to win the best actress Academy Award  for her amazing performance in Darren Aronofsky's directorial feat. At what cost however?

Black Swan follows- rather closely I might add- Nina (Portman) as she pursues the role of the Swan Queen in her ballet company's latest rendition of Swan Lake. The company director Thomas Leroy (played with poise by the ever-surprising Vincent Cassel) has just fired the aged 'face' of the ballet and is now searching for the new dancer who has what it takes to be Swan Queen. The trick is that his new star must be able to dance both the regal Swan Queen and the seductive Black Swan. New dancer Lily- portrayed by the spontaneous and free Mila Kunis-  is also up for the role and as Nina works towards the performance she becomes increasingly jealous and paranoid. Ultimately this leads to psychological meltdown and emotional climax in some of the film's most creative and horrifying sequences

This rivalry is what the tension in Black Swan is built on. Aronofsky's direction brings us directly into the middle of Nina's experience, utilizing the often criticized handheld camera work much of the time to make us feel one with Nina. Natalie Portman is literally in every scene in the movie, so by the end of the film we are left with an enormous emotional connection to her character. Film-making-wise I seldom see such well directed and well shot movies. Aronofsky has proven time and time again that he can direct, as evidenced by "Requiem for a Dream", "The Fountain" and "The Wrestler". This time around, though, everything is raw, sensual and visceral. We literally feel the obsession growing in our own minds as Nina desperately tries to entertain Thomas' every whim, both on the dance floor and at home.

From an acting standpoint Natalie Portman is an obvious stand out, based solely on the sheer emotional volume that the role of Nina required. Mila Kunis deserves recognition as Lily though. She will probably be overlooked come awards season, but it is good to see her developing into her own actress. The relationship that she has with Nina is both awkward and endearing, as she tries to support Nina in her art and get her to just 'free up'. This point leads us to the major, and I mean MAJOR problem with Black Swan.

Morally speaking, I cannot recommend Black Swan to anyone because of the graphic sexual content in the film. People try to justify the content by bringing up the context in which it took place, but regardless filth is filth, no matter how you look at it. On scene in the film ends up with a very high Nina and Lily making out and engaging in sexual activity on her bed. In context of the film Nina is hallucinating due to her obsession and jealousy with Lily Thomas' pressure to explore her sexuality, BUT that is no excuse. Not only was it plain awkward to see on screen, it was plain WRONG. Aronofsky has had a history of not holding back when it comes to sexuality, but this was something I was not expecting. And it is something I grieve.
Such a beautiful movie was ruined by a simple minute of immorality depicted onscreen.

So we find ourselves at my conclusion......
Sigh. What can I say? Black Swan is one of those viciously beautiful works of art that has become tainted. I felt while watching Black Swan that perhaps I was witnessing the creation of something amazing, such as watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel or listening to Homer recite the Illiad. As beautiful as it is though, I cannot keep my mind from recalling the sadness of Nina's fall into obsession and insanity. Natalie Portman literally hits rock bottom in "Black Swan" for the sake of her art. And apparently the audience is expected to as well.
The questions remains - will we allow ourselves to go through the depths of hell in order to find heaven?
It can seem worth it at times, but I can assure you that hell is hell, even if it is disguised with the music of Tchaikovsky and a seemingly innocent art form.
If you must see "Black Swan", I would recommend waiting until it's release on DVD and Blu-ray, that way you can do yourself the favor of skipping a dark splot on an otherwise spotless film.

The REAL Bowman

I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts! Did you see Black Swan? What did YOU think?

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