Saturday, December 25, 2010
A defining characteristic of film as a medium is its ability to engage you viscerally. That capability is used to great advantage here. When you're able to see into the mind of another, that can be horrifying if the person whose mind you're entering is crazed.
I've seen all of Darren Aronofsky's films and he's a master at depicting madness. His "Requiem For A Dream" was a terrifying view of drug-addiction from the eyes of an addict.
Here, we see a young ballet-dancer on the verge of artistic success who is plagued by pressure to be perfect and, seeing through her eyes, we're never sure what is real and what is her delusion. The power of the film lies in that confusion.
I especially enjoyed the subjects plumbed by the film: the pressure to be perfect; the tendency to control others; and complex personal relationships. The good-girl/bad-girl duality is everywhere in the film, starting with the White Swan/Black Swan ballet plot and extending to other dichotomies, like prim/sexual behavior.
The performances by Natalie Portman, Vicent Cassel and Barbara Hershey are riveting. You can't avoid being pulled into their insanity and then rocked every direction with it. Milos Kunis does a credible job as Portman's rival and Winona Ryder has a cameo-role as the ballerina being cast aside.
This movie is captivating art and I recommend it highly -- but only for those capable of handling extreme depictions. The film isn't for pansies. I can imagine people fleeing it in terror if they expected it to be a sweet dance-movie.