Review: Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller Black Swan details ballerina Nina Sayers' descent into madness. The company director (Vincent Cassel) picks Sayers (Natalie Portman) for the "Swan Lake" lead, who must embody both the dainty White Swan and the vicious Black Swan. Nina perfects the White role, but quickly develops a twisted rivalry with a fellow dancer (Mila Kunis) deemed perfect for the Black role. As she obsessively trains, Sayers risks her sanity and her life.

Black Swan grips and disturbs. Viewers slowly learn their narrator is unreliable, which is always a shock. The film's visual contrast and soundtrack feed the creepy aura. Natalie Portman's careful, passionate acting centers the movie around her intensity. Aronofsky weaves horror elements--subtle facial transformations, unexpected sound effects, the occasional hallucination--into the script to detail Sayers' eroding mind. He never reveals the sources of her madness, but Nina's perfectionist director, training obsession, and emotionally abusive mother all contribute. This lack of concrete explanation suits Nina's unreliability and details the intensity of creative minds. It's also a cheap plot hole.

A similar opinion split accompanies the film's heavy-handed artistry. Aronofsky heavily dresses up his simple plot: he clothes Sayers in white and her rival in black, amps up the music at key points, and deploys disturbing hallucinations in extremely obvious places. He gives Sayers' rival a winged tattoo and the Black Swan ornate eyeliner, as if the audience needed more symbolic reminders. Some viewers rightly consider these decisions artistic overkill, but their brash weight does enforce Nina Sayers' pathological worldview.

Overall, Black Swan is an intense ride through the professional ballet world. Despite its simple, artificially enhanced plot, the movie will certainly haunt viewers.


  1. An excellent review! I was similarly torn about the director's plodding over-stylization, but couldn't stop watching.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts