Monday, December 20, 2010

Film Review: Black Swan


Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan strikes you as a well narrated tragic masterpiece where the protagonist's flaw in character is her child-like innocence. The drama narrates the strange vicissitudes of the life of a young ballerina as she sheds the raiment of mollitude and adorns the evil prowess of a femme-fatale. In a broader sense, it is a story of art consuming the artist.

The dream like movement of the plot is well threaded with the wonderful choreography, and Natalie Portman comes out as a sensational queen of both drama and dance. She is perfect; her face a pool of emotions, each sentiment is penciled into her features with deft mastery.

For years the pious Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has served her term in a New York ballet company mastering her techniques and generally polishing her act, but what she lacks is the acting prowess. The company having suffered an alteration of fate, the director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to rejuvenate the under the weather corporation by recasting the classical Swan Lake. He selects the na├»ve Nina to play the role of the protagonist, even though he is unsure of her prospects in the portrayal of the black swan, the double of the pious white swan, and this is where the conflict strikes. A clattering windmill of admonitions, cheering ups and even sexual stimulations could not fully unveil darkness in the angelic diva. What Leroy doesn’t realize is that Nina is too unpretentious to don the dark attire without hurting herself in the process. She is gullible, she is scared. Under the authority of her overbearing mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), Nina is a child of subservience lacking heavily in the power to assert herself. But her journey to the realm of darkness begins with the advent of her competitor Lily (Mila Kunis), a sexually deviant female exuding the aura of darkness in every breath. She is a natural "black swan," and Thomas Leroy casts her as Nina's alter in the drama. Feeling thwarted and wronged Nina peels off her suave exterior and displays the characteristics of the dark, primeval self.

The thrilling suspense of the movie grips you from the beginning. The atmosphere of darkness, the cerebral horror, Nina's doppelganger, all predict a grim finale for the narrative. The disturbing scenes of graphic injuries send chills down your spine and you are left with the cardiac organ getting crazy inside your rib-cage.

Black Swan is a perfectly written gothic novel where each scene is chronologically threaded with the next. Despite the marked ambiguity of certain events, Black Swan comes out as a drama that doesn’t require a high gray-matter content to decipher. Of late, several Hollywood pieces (Inception, for example) have used the decipher-it-yourself technique in their works leaving a sizeable portion of audience vying for the correct interpretation of the cinematic riddle, and thereby making them focus their attention on the mathematical calculation rather than on deriving pure pleasure from the motion picture. But appreciation of art is not a forced process; it is natural and spontaneous. Black Swan deftly balances this artistic truth with perfect harmony, and the resultant magnum opus therefore comes out flawless and un-blemished. The subtle movements in the plot, the astounding visual effects and the incommensurable depth in the story leave the audience spell-bound. Never for a moment the plot seems thin or dragged out, never does the director lose his focus. In fact, the entire effort shows so much perfection that I, like many of my co-viewers, sat appreciating the work even after the final credits have rolled.

A review of Black Swan would be incomplete without a paragraph of homage to its protagonist. Natalie Portman has surpassed herself in the role of Nina. She is beyond perfect. She is a cross between an arch-angelic superwoman and a half-baked adult with no sexual experience. Her transmogrification strikes us as the wrath of hell. I still feel the goosebumps on my skin when I recall the miniate-eyes of the black swan. Portman's academic background as a pupil of psychiatry has undoubtedly helped her drink in the tricky role to perfection. She has come a long way from the brat in the Closer; she seems more matured. Her final words go through you like a pair of sharp knives inflicted on an already wounded surface. "That was perfect," she says as volumes of unspoken emotion fill her eyes, and then she empties her lungs; an artist sacrificed at the altar of art.

The supporting cast in the movie balances the spectacular lead performance. Mina Kunis is exquisite as Lily. She too seemed matured and out of the cocoon of Jackie (Kunis's character in "That 70's show"). She is a woman of great attraction, not the starry eyed teenager in love with unicorns. Barbara Hershey as Nina's imperious parent seems more like the wicked witch holding the pretty princess captive rather than a mother-cum-career-coach of her ballerina daughter. Winona Ryder as Beth also deserves a round of applause. Despite appearing in only a handful of scenes, her presence is vital in the drama.

The chiaroscuro like cinematography is breathtaking, and so are the editing and sound effects. The director Darren Aronofsky plies with the audience's expectation and unfolds before their eyes a drama of a lifetime. This epic tale of innocence killed at the hand of its vicious replicate is one of the best cinematographic renderings in 2010. After Christopher Nolan's Inception, Black Swan comes out as the second biggest hit of the year.


My Rating: ********** Ten out of ten. 


P.S. CNN i-Report of the review:

       IMDB link of the review: