Buff Review Show- Arabesque. Plié. Psychotic Episode? Bad Swan!
It’s amazing what two weeks of ballet at the age of 6 DOESN’T teach you…
Anyway, Black Swan has been out for a couple of weeks, and has kept me well occupied while I catch up on a few bits and pieces. So for those of you who haven’t seen it, or have been unsure of whether to get it on DVD, this review should help guide you in the right direction!
If you thought 127 Hours was an enthralling and visceral masterpiece than stick yourself in an adult nappy and prepare for the wetness to ensue as you sit down to watch Black Swan. If I had to sum it up in two simple words, excluding the two adjectives from the previous sentence, I word have to go with beautiful and nightmarish. This film will grab you by the proverbial bits form the first scene right the way to the last. Watching Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Nina, a ballerina whose desire to play the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, a role that commands her to be both the beautiful, pure White Swan, as well as her evil sister, The Black Swan, it is clear to see why she and the rest of the cast and crew from this film will be having to cart away their awards in wheelbarrows made of gold.
Director Darren Aronofsky, whom many of you will know from ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Requiem for a Dream’, to name but a couple of his masterpieces, manages to do what few other directors, if put in charge of this film, could do- blending together the lines between thrilling suspense, squeamish horror and character-led drama. This is one heck of a piece of cinema that is entirely of it’s own genre, as I and many other reviewers find it impossible to be classed as any one genre.
It is the bravado style of filmmaking that proves that Aronofsky’s other hits are not just flukes- this is a man who knows EXACTLY what he has to do, not only with the script-writers and actors, but everything from costume design to music to direction. The film is full of contrast, sometimes quite obvious, like the constant changing of black and white clothing between characters at key points in the film, but it is never overdone, and when it is at more subtle, glimpsing levels the film just gets more brilliant. I found this one hard to review not only because of the pretty serious content of the film, which doesn’t allow for a lot of laughs to be had on the reviewing end, but also because, well, what can I point out that is wrong with it?
Ok so the build up is slow to start, but from the first scene Nina is in we know something is up with her, something deep and hidden, and that is the whole point of not only this story, but how the story of Nina merges with the characters within Swan Lake she is trying to portray, both the White Swan and the Black Swan. Those who work with and around those who suffer from split personalities and psychosis problems will find this film getting very close and intimate with the subject. I will say that, for a while, I found the character of Nina to be a bit stuck, too overly naïve, and almost expressionless to begin with, which makes it hard to understand why she would be chosen to lead the ballet with, supposedly, better dancers around her.
I’ve spent the first few hours or so after viewing Black Swan trying to figure out in my mind if any other actress could have played the roles filled by Portman and Mila Kulis (That 70’s Show). And my answer: no. We’ve seen Portman play the delicate flower before now, who isn’t afraid to show a bit of skin and show a slightly raunchier side here and there, and Kulis is well established as the saucy, sassy, brash femme fatale with those incredibly hypnotic eyes. But could anyone else really have done justice to the characters?
This is probably one of the most subjective films that I have seen in long while, that has done the subjectivity well and isn’t just cloning ideas and concepts already done. We can all talk about ‘Fight Club’ and so forth till the cows come home, but this is a deeper level of psychosis and denial and sheer foreign nature of the human mind at it’s most raw and naked. At any point in the film it is difficult whether what we see before us is truly what is happening, or whether it is what Nina has crafted in her mind, or indeed what her mind has crafted for her to see. It’s certainly a film that keeps it’s watchers on their toes, and you certainly need to watch every stylised, saturated second of this film to fully appreciate it.
And you know what, as much as I enjoyed the mother-daughter relationship between Nina and her raging-nutcase of a mother, I have to say the content was strangely reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s ‘The Piano Teacher’ that it stuck out like a sore thumb covered in razor blades, but, at the end of the day, I do appreciate ‘Black Swan’. I’ve seen reviewers handing out well-deserved marks of 9 or 10 out of 10, but what interested me was a review I found giving the film only a score of 1. Despite me wanting to wrench out the reviewers fingers and seal them in a box for typing a review that misses the point of the film so hard it hurts even my eyes to read it, I can see, in a dark room, if I squint, a small point to his review.
The verging on pornographic, explicit sex scenes involving Portman and then later on Kulis as well, produced a few laughs in the screening I was in, but I think this was more of an unsure laughter than anything else. It’s a real precipice for the film before we lead into the final scenes, and I don’t believe it damages the film as much as my fellow reviewer seemed to believe it did. At the end of the day, these films are Oscar nominated for very good reasons, and if you’ve not seen ‘127 Hours’, ‘The King’s Speech’ or this, you really should firstly seal yourself in an oubliette for such a travesty, and while you’re in there why not watch ‘Black Swan’ on a portable DVD player and get ready for the ride.