Okay, so for those of you who know me, I am a music student. So when the name Tchaikovsky comes up, you'd expect a lot of people to say "oh, you mean that ballet composer whose Nutcracker you do every year in every major dance company". Well... except if you live in Russia, apparently, in which case you probably know him better for his operas than for his ballets.
But that's not the point. There's a certain ballet of his called Swan Lake about a girl who gets turned into a swan, falls in love with a prince who is deceived by a deceitful twin conjured up by the wizard who placed the curse on the girl.
So when one decides to pseudo-adapt it, we decide to have fun, right?
Well... let's go into today's movie, shall we?
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a dancer at the company of Thomas (Vincent Cassel). She has just gotten the chance to play the role of the Swan Queen in their new production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and is thrilled about it. However, when new dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) begins to take hold of her life, paranoia sets in for Sayers as she finds herself squashed under the pressure that everything around her--including her own subconscious--is throwing at her.
And it gets kind of trippy from there.
And I mean that in the best possible sense of 'trippy'.
Where to begin... where to begin... Well, the narrative is very tightly woven by director Darren Aronofsky. I'll admit I'm unfamiliar with his work (seriously, shame on me), but from what I see in Black Swan he can really fucking direct. Every event that happens in this movie probably would've come off as cheesy under anybody else's hands. But Aronofsky manages his material with an impeccable style and grace that's almost like the ballet dancers he's telling a story about. It's an experience to watch things unfold from his masterful direction.
And this is most apparent when things start getting bat-shit crazy in the middle of the third act. This movie has one of the most compelling portrayals of a slow descent into madness I've ever seen on celluloid. It starts of slowly, with only a few subtle things that happen around Nina. But it continually builds up, and by the time we get to the end it's absolutely jaw-dropping to behold everything that's going on around Nina. Aronofsky's direction helps keep everything in focus, and we're always somewhat aware of what's going on around Nina as she slowly loses her mind.
Ultimately, though, what keeps everything together is what I think to be the best performance of Natalie Portman's career. I've seen her in everything from the Star Wars prequels to Brothers last year, but nothing I've ever seen her do in any of her other movies has ever been as compelling as it has been during the running time of this movie. Much like Nina Sayers in the story, Natalie Portman has to embrace her dark side slowly, all while she's losing her mind. I imagine it's a very difficult thing to portray during the course of one movie, and Portman nails it. Here's hoping she gets nominated for an Oscar, because she really deserves it.
So... what else can I say about Black Swan that's positive? Not a whole lot, but that's not a bad thing. It's impeccably directed, incredibly acted, and sports one of the most jaw-dropping portrayals of a descent into madness ever committed to film. If there's one last thing to say about this movie that is positive, it is that Black Swan is one of the best films of the year. I can't think of anything more positive to say than that.
A must-see picture of the year.
This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.