Thursday, January 6, 2011

at the movies: black swan

"We're going to take Swan Lake, strip it down and make it visceral and real!"

I'd been dying to see Black Swan ever since I first heard rumblings about a dark mind-f*ck of a movie involving ballet and directed by Darren Oronofsky, who also did The Wrestler (which I loved). That's right up my alley, in case you were wondering (I have always been fascinated by the ballet). But... whoa. I was expecting psychological torment, but it was gory--an honest-to-goodness art house horror flick that had me diving behind my hands again and again. Natalie Portman was incredibly well cast, and underwent a year of intensive training to shape her (literally) into the perfect prima ballerina. (She also was impregnated by and is now engaged to the prinicipal dancer who played her Prince in Swan Lake.) It was one of those movies where I left the theatre unsure of whether I liked it or not, but I think I can say now that I really did. The symbolism of black/white and good/evil is obvious in the extreme, but I think it suits the film quite well. After all, that is what Swan Lake, the ballet within the film, is all about. And to some extent, I think that is what the world of ballet is all about--a facade of extraordinary beauty and perfection and the ugliness, pain and suffering underneath (have you ever seen a ballerina movie where the dancers didn't peel their mangled, bloody feet out of pretty pink shoes?).

As for making the film visceral and real, Aronofsky went above and beyond, scraping away Nina's flawlessly fragile skin and revealing the raw meat underneath. It was as if Aronofsky was reminding us of our corporality with every blink of an eye--even the way that the dancers would shred and tear and stitch their shoes it was as if they were eviscerating raw flesh. I was also struck by the way that every space (with the exception of the main stage and theatre, of course) seemed dingy and dark, evocative of the underground. These were the sort of spaces you would expect heroin addicts to inhabit, not lovely, lithe little ballerinas. And the blood... so, so much blood...


  1. I agree the film really is about the suffering behind the beauty of the art. But yes it was utterly terrifying at some points. The part where Winona's character haunts her was shocking and still made me gape despite the fact I knew it was a hallucination. Although the film was good and very well acted, I hesitate to say I "liked" it because it wasn't particularly enjoyable to watch and frankly I found it a bit overrated. I've read article upon article and heard rave reviews from friends and bloggers that I came in with way too high expectations.

  2. The film was beautiful even with all the blood. I think it lived up to the hype and then some. My husband even enjoyed it which is saying a lot. :)

  3. I too was shocked by the gore.
    But I did love the film once I got my nerves back. :)

  4. this was so so good, though I doubt i will watch it again.

  5. im too scared to watch this movie alone, but i wanna watch it!!

  6. I really wanted to see it, but the preview kind of scared me, and I'm such a wimp that I'm not sure I will.... Also, Natalie Portman is pregnant? Definitely blinked and missed that!

  7. I saw this movie a month ago..and let me just say I loved it...I always liked Natalie Portman..but in this movie she was awesome:X

    xoxo sere

  8. Wasn't it so intense and beautiful and gritty and dark and disturbing and fantastic?
    Yep, I was blown away and can't wait to see it again.

    Leaving the House in THIS?!?!

  9. oh my, i watched the movie already!
    and i kinda watched it alone!
    it was not so scary as i thought it would, but it was gory.
    im betting on natalie portman to win an oscar!