Once when I watched “Black Swan” at the cinema with my other half, I had to endure a heartfelt reading after the credits. Before I bought the movie ticket, my rather prudish friend assumed that Darren Aronofsky’s star-studded blockbuster was an innocent remake of the Tchaikovsky classic “Swan Lake”, which has been performed on ballet stages around the world for decades…
… and of course was completely wrong with this assessment. “Black Swan” is more of a horror movie than a classic dance movie. And if you tune in to the latter in false hopes, you’re definitely streaming the wrong thing on Disney+.
The work of “The whale”-Director Aronofsky is rather a disturbing and visually stunning psychological thriller, in which the virtuoso staged ballet rehearsals form the narrative framework for the exciting story and a highly emotional finale.
That’s what “Black Swan” is about
A prestigious New York ballet company is planning a new production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. Although ambitious and sensitive ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) trains harder than anyone else in the group, she doesn’t quite believe in her big chance for the lead role. Eccentric director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) wants the same dancer to perform the white and black swan, but entrusts only Nina to do the white swan. When she blunders during a rehearsal, the dream seems to fall apart – much to the disappointment of her mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), who was a ballerina herself, but was nowhere near as successful as her daughter.
When Nina tries to talk to Thomas again, he suddenly puts pressure on her. She painfully rejects him. Recognizing that Nina can come out as forcefully and energetically as he pleases for the black swan, the director promptly casts her in the lead role. For Nina, however, this is the prelude to a nightmare that gets worse every day: the ballerina is under enormous psychological pressure and becomes increasingly paranoid. Soon they are plagued by terrible hallucinations. And then there’s the equally talented Lily (Mila Kunis), who’s also set her sights on the lead role and wraps Thomas around her little finger…
That “Black Swan”, as outlined in the introduction, is not an innocent dance film, is already apparent from the opening minutes. The film opens with Nina doing lonesome pirouettes on stage to the famous Tchaikovsky tunes in a bright white swan outfit. There is no audience to be seen. Her opening dance is reminiscent of a music box figure – a metaphor that will be discussed later. Then a man dressed in black joins her. The music suddenly becomes dramatic, almost booming. He transforms into a black feathered horror figure and spins it through the air as he dances. Her eyes panic: the woman is afraid. When it’s over, she looks relieved. Then Nina wakes up.
Just an introductory nightmare, but at the same time a foretaste of things to come. The gloomy imagery, which has absolutely nothing in common with the supposedly ideal world of shimmering ballet, runs like a thread through the film. Likewise the visual play with light and shadow, with black and white, the central optical contrast of “Swan Lake”. It often finds its equivalent in production design, for example in Thomas’s apartment or Nina’s bathroom. The innocence personified is at the mercy of the powerful and intrusive director; Greetings from the Weinstein scandal and the #metoo movement.
When it hurts to watch
The exertions of the gritty, incredibly physically demanding sport of ballet are captured in an equally relentless manner, and we sympathize with Nina. Natalie Portman (“Leon – The Professional”), who deservedly won the Oscar, danced ballet as a child and trained for a year for the demanding main role, brilliantly embodies her. Sometimes you can hardly see. Nina’s toes and nails are bloodied and bruised, her ligaments and bones are at their limits. Every citizen is a mortal sin. Envy and resentment reign among the dancers. And if that wasn’t enough, Nina is under the thumb of her domineering mother, who fulfills her own never-fulfilled dream of the big spotlight over her daughter. It’s a cliché, but it’s also a reality in sports like ballet or figure skating.
In general, the apartment in which Nina (still) lives with her strict mother is an exciting and oppressive scene, which at the same time spared the budget of the production, which cost only $ 13 million: Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”), who opened the 67th Venice Film Festival with “Black Swan”, creates a stuffy, claustrophobic atmosphere, from which the unstable Nina only escapes by going to ballet rehearsal. Here and there, however, the filmmaker puts it a bit thick: Nina’s room, for example, is full of cuddly toys, which she throws into the rubbish chute at a certain point, when the metamorphosis of her character from an innocent girl to an adult woman requires it. . You can say that more subtly.
The same goes for the character structure: the deliberately relaxed rival Lily wears only black and is the alternative to the frigid Nina – a variation of the “Swan Lake” storyline. The roles are clearly divided. The dancer, who traveled from San Francisco, is relaxed instead of stubborn, sporting a large wing tattoo on her back, tossing drugs and even contradicting the toxic Thomas instead of being obedient and submissive like Nina. She has more experience with men, but also with manipulation. The closer the two get, the more uncertain we are whether Lily will skillfully beat the competitor or whether the paranoid Nina will finally lose her mind. An attractive game of confusion, albeit without the really big surprises.
Truth or delusion?
It is no coincidence that Darren Aronofsky was inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story “Der Doppelgänger” (which was later filmed as “The Double” starring Jesse Eisenberg), because the loss of one’s own identity and living environment also drives the events in “Black Swan” ahead. The doppelgänger motif and the trick with eerie reflections, which suddenly don’t do the same as their counterpart, is a horror technique that has been tried a lot, but is staged incredibly effectively here. In addition, there are a few sharp scares and gloomy visions that mingle with the real here and now: strong horror cinema that is alluded to early on and finally breaks new ground in the last third of the film.
And then there is the dramaturgically expected, but dramatically staged and disturbing finale, which can be discussed in the aftermath: “Black Swan” leaves some questions unanswered in the final chord and leaves room for interpretation. What really happened, what did Nina just imagine? Those who like such mind games should not miss the ambiguous psychological thriller on Disney +, which contains enough horror elements and is also heavily cast in the supporting roles.
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Source : Film Starts
I am Dawid Malan, a news reporter for 24 Instant News. I specialize in celebrity and entertainment news, writing stories that capture the attention of readers from all walks of life. My work has been featured in some of the world’s leading publications and I am passionate about delivering quality content to my readers.