PASS THE POPCORN: A classical ballet film with a horrifying twist

by Staff

Courtesy of Fox

The hotly anticipated dance flick lives up to high expectations

By Carmen Splane, Staff Contributor

Director Darren Aronofsky’s days of being snubbed by the Academy are finally finished. Paving the way for his Oscar redemption was 2008’s “The Wrestler,” and now with “Black Swan,” Aronofsky delivers another powerful character study about a ballerina driven mad by her hunger for perfection.

Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sayers, a tortured New York City ballerina dying to move up in the ranks of her ballet company. She is finally given the chance of a lifetime when the company’s aging, resident prima ballerina, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), is forced to retire. Portman gives the performance of her career playing the multilayered Nina, a young woman plagued by the pursuit of control and perfection. She uses ballet and bulimia as tools of control, but her life is constantly controlled and affected by her overbearing mother, a demanding and womanizing company director and an eager ballerina aching to take her place.

Aronofksy and Portman create a telling looking glass into the darker side of the ballet world — a world filled with beauty, pain and self-deprivation.  They create a powerful peek into the psyche of a woman who not only is her own worst enemy but who creates this enemy from a manifestation of her own repressed fears and desires.

When Nina is given the coveted role of the Swan Queen in her company’s rendition of “Swan Lake,” the pressure soon becomes too much to bear. The role of the Swan Queen is a dual role that requires Nina to play both the White Swan and the Black Swan. The sheltered, technically precise and sometimes infantile Nina has no problem assuming the role of the White Swan, but must dig into her repressed, darker and more sexual side to bring the character of the Black Swan to life.

Life very literally begins to imitate art as Nina travels down an emotional road to unlock this hidden side of herself, while simultaneously running from her own shadow. Her darker side begins to haunt her everywhere she goes until she finally allows herself to succumb to this new version of herself.

Aronofsky has finally found his niche with the Academy; the film’s muted colors, tight shots and haunting score make for a beautifully crafted piece that audiences will find hard to forget.  Aronofsky’s horror-like take on a ballet classic is not perfect but it delivers, despite some over-the-top moments.

Movie: Black Swan

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

Release Date: Now playing

Grade: A-

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