Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Psychological thriller “Black Swan” earns multiple nominations

By Alicia LaRosa

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“Black Swan,” a film directed by Darren Aronofsky, is an almost cautionary tale of the pressures that come with taking on the lead role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake.

This Swan Lake is a little different than the original, however. In this film, the ballet follows the plot of the fairy tale in a contemporary fashion.

Led in by a dream sequence of Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), the story begins with spectacle. Full of shaky camera work predominantly following Portman, the setting shifts from her home, where she lives with her domineering, suffocating mother, to the dance company she lives for that takes her for granted.

The audience soon learns that a New York City ballet company is preparing for the production of Swan Lake, choosing to cast someone new to replace the current star, Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder), as the Swan Queen – the embodiment of both the White and Black Swans. There are many pressures facing the ballerinas, especially Nina, who wants nothing more than to be perfect. Her need for perfection is her fatal flaw as she never loses herself in a performance because of her neurotic meticulousness. Her adversary, Lily (Mila Kunis) seems better fit for the part.  Despite this, Lily is tapped to be only the understudy. Their characters, contrasted, are like night and day, and play upon the idea of the Black and White swans or the light and dark in people.

Ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) tells Nina she is the embodiment of the White Swan during the audition process; however, she cannot dare to play the Black Swan unless she lets loose and lets go. He is reluctant to choose her for the lead role until he sees a spark of danger in her reaction to his advances.

“[The danger] makes us so thrilling to watch,” Thomas encourages Nina in the film. “Perfect, even.” This sentiment, along with Nina’s need for perfection, is echoed in the final lines of the film.

Besides the real-life issues of anorexia and bulimia, the pursuit of perfection and the sexual mistreatment of the young ingénues, Nina has to deal with grand-scale hallucinations and her waning sanity. As the movie progresses, she falls deeper into her haunting, yet intriguing madness.

Portman and Kunis trained in ballet for several months prior to filming, and several notable figures from the ballet world helped with film production to shape the ballet presentation. Portman has admitted she was close to starving herself to get into character. “I was barely eating, I was working 16 hours a day,” she told the Daily Mail. Despite the unreliability of her character’s narrative, she most definitely looked the part she was playing.

The biggest complaint about the film, apparently, wasn’t the melodramatic portrayal, the inaccuracies, or the ugly stereotypes. It was that “there was not enough dancing.” Going out to clubs the night before a performance? Not even that was the frontrunner of discrepancies. The most dancing in the film was the final performance, which left dance enthusiasts a little put out.

The ending is a bit predictable – only if you’re paying close attention (watch the trailer again after seeing the film). Regardless, this film pushes the plains of reality so far that it makes a person unsure of what to actually believe.

If blood bothers you, steer clear of this movie. However, if you can look past it to the raw emotional and psychological content, this movie is definitely one that will have you at the edge of your seat, waiting for reality to rear its ugly head.

Black Swan” is up for many awards, and has won a great deal already thanks to the stunning performance of Natalie Portman, as well as the rest of the cast. The film was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, with Portman winning one.

Alicia LaRosa can be reached at [email protected]

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