“Sometimes it worth putting up with some convoluted stylisation in order to see a good psychological thriller.” That’s what I was chanting to myself in the queue for Black Swan.
“It’s ok, there won’t be that much ballet in it, and even if there is, the weird stuff will carry you through the boring bits.”
It makes you wonder, if I’m so wrong all the time, why I even bother.
Black Swan is about ballet. Even though it tries to be about seven other subjects at the same time. Darren Aronofsky (director) manages to go from brilliance to bullshit between The Wrestler and Black Swan. This movie is nothing like Rourke’s comeback masterpiece. For one, it’s supposed to be a psychological thriller. For two, it doesn’t have any good actors in it. For three, it has so little emotion. Thank god it only runs to 108 minutes.
Natalie Portman (who I hardly rate already) plays Nina, a ballet dancer striving for the lead role in swan lake. Through some ham-fisted storytelling we realise that Nina has psychological issues, and we’re expected to take that on face value because the audience are obviously idiots. When Lilly (Mila Kunis) arrives, Nina starts to become paranoid that the younger, sexier dancer is trying to take her place. Hence forth, the film is all about Nina going slowly bonkers and long scenes of ballet practice.
Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the skinniest bint of all?
It sure aint you…Saddlebags.
Remember when I said this film was trying to be about too many things at once? It tries to realise the pressure inherent in the ballet performer’s world; the anorexia, how your career is over beyond the age of twenty five. It tries to discuss the cliques and bitchy backstabbing in this aforementioned world. It tries to be a atmospheric and stylish. And it tries to scare the shit out of you.
Can you see how these things don’t even mesh on paper?
I don’t know who said Black Swan could out-perform King’s Speech in the awards season, but they’re an idiot. If anyone sat and enjoyed Black Swan they’re either complete morons who profess to understand the film’s nuances while having no clue what went on, or they’re pompous scoffers who think any movie about something so elitist as ballet deserves instant praise just for being made.
Let’s break it down (here be spoilers).
The movie follows the same plot (and I use the term loosely) as Swan Lake where a princess is supplanted by her evil twin in the affections of the prince, causing the princess to top herself. You can draw parallels all the way through, like you should, and this fundamental element is what fails to work. The Black Swan (Portman’s dark psychotic side) is embodied by Kunis…and Nina’s mother…and Portman’s reflection…and another couple of people who appear so briefly I forget who they were. There’s no focus. Is this all in Portman’s head or not? I’m all for ambiguity, but it’d be nice if I had the sense that Aronofsky knew the answer even if I don’t.
The art of simultaneous Chiropractics is a dangerous one.
Now, I’m going to spoil the ending for you, because I feel like you should know before you suffer the movie. The end is shite. It’s so full of holes that the entire ballet company cold dance through it. Just before Nina is about to go on stage as the Black Swan, and she really needs to let her softer side go and embrace the darkness, Lilly arrives in her changing room. In a paranoid altercation, Nina stabs Lilly with a piece of mirror, stows her body in the bathroom, and then gets changed for the stage. Nina dances the Black Swan to much applause then returns to her dressing room for another change. Lilly knocks on the door. Oh yes, she’s still alive and quite un-stabbed. The body in the bathroom was imaginary. Nina then realises that in a fit of pseudo-psychotic uselessness, the writers have made her stab herself, and she’s bleeding.
I think I need a new paragraph for this: Now, bear in mind that since Nina was stabbed she has gotten changed, danced for maybe half an hour as the Black Swan, come back and gotten changed into her White Swan outfit, and had a conversation with Lilly. She apparently has clotting factors in her blood that rival Wolverine, because she hasn’t bled to death yet. But that’s not it, because she then goes back out on stage, dances for another forty five minutes and finishes the ballet to a standing ovation. It’s only then that she starts to bleed, profusely, and goes from Swan Queen to dead as a Dodo in thirty seconds.
So it turns out that Lilly is fine, Nina’s mother turns up to the performance even though we saw her in a fit of psychosis only a few minutes earlier, and Nina dies after astounding medical science.
I know. What a load of shit.
Good bits? The psychotic elements are actually rendered pretty well. The make-up and special effects used in Nina’s physical transformation into the Black Swan are good. And the moments that show how much damage a ballet dancer has to take for her profession are interesting and well done. Winona Ryder stabbing herself in the face was pretty cool. The lesbian sex, however, was not. Basically, some of the small stuff is pretty good. It’s just a shame the big things are so far wide of the mark.
“Black Swan, Bull Shit. See the similarities.”