The only person standing in your way is you.
I have always strived for perfection; at school, at work, etc. But perfection comes at a cost. It is tiring and draining to always have to appear perfect. I was pushed because of my family and their expectations and it even got to where my best was not good enough for myself. Thankfully, I now understand to try my best for me. But for this story about ballerina Nina, it is not so simple. Her need for perfection will come with a steep price. Is perfection really worth it at the end?
Nina, a ballet dancer living in New York City, is obsessed with her craft. Her life is consumed by ballet and the drive to perfect her skills. She lives with her mother Erica, a former ballerina who put her career on hold to raise Nina. It is apparent that Erica wants her daughter to be everything that she wasn't, trying to live vicariously through Nina and experience the dreams she never accomplished. Her mother forces the idea of perfection onto Nina, causing psychological damage mentally and physically (Nina is constantly scratching her skin till it bleeds). When Thomas, the director of the ballet company, decides to put on a production of Swan Lake he needs a new Swan Queen. Nina is flawless in her audition for the white swan, but the black swan is against Nina's timid and shy nature. But a new ballerina, Lily, is the absolute embodiment of the black swan. She is uncontrolled and full of emotion, and this presents a problem for Nina. Jealousy and false conclusions invade Nina's mind. As time progresses and the show near opening night, Nina is slowly transforming into something she could never imagine. Her mental state diminishes, full of delusions and confusions. She literally cannot tell what has become a dream and what has become a reality. The pressure of the show, the competition, and striving for perfection has driven Nina mad. Can Nina pull it together to make her leading debut as the Swan Queen, or will Nina forever be psychologically damaged by her fears?
What Knocked It Out of the Park:
What makes Black Swan so intriguing is the story of the ballerinas, which most of us will never understand. The story really shows the work that goes into a show and it is unbelievable and powerful. I never realized how competitive the ballet world was. It is forceful and strong which will make it appealing to us who have never experienced the ballet world. I felt it was captivating to watch the ballet world and its effects on the mind. It becomes more than just a dance when it begins to affect the mental state of a performer. The story of striving for perfection was the most interesting plot. It is thought-provoking to watch the mental breakdown of a main character, and it made me wonder if other ballerinas ever struggle with the pressure of performing. The story is also told in a unique perspective, bringing out many different emotions ballerinas must feel. The indescribable doubt that the story presents is overpowering and intense. The desire and need for the lead role drives the individual. It feels that the emotions are relatable; all of us have felt the need to be seen and heard. Unrelenting, the story never gives the viewer any breathing room. The tension is kept high and the pressure is always on, which is something that I appreciate from a film. Black Swan presents viewers with one of this year's most fascinating and well executed plots.
Natalie Portman gives an unsettling yet beautiful performance as Nina. From the beginning of the story, I was thrust into the lifestyle of a ballerina by Portman. It is interesting that I find Portman to be everything a ballerina wouldn't be; shy, unsure, innocent, and unconfident. Portman executes Nina's drive for perfection perfectly. It is easy to see the want in her eyes, which portray many of her emotions. Portman exemplifies the white swan at the beginning; her face is placid and innocent. Portman gives Nina eyes that give away all of her emotions. She could be saying one thing, but her eyes say something else. Portman shows her fear and doubts through her eyes, which is a spectacular way to portray such a complex character. But by the end, Portman has changed. Her body language is more comfortable and her actions become surer of their purpose. Her eyes become fierce; the pressure finally has gotten to her. It's an amazing transformation to behold and Portman delivers the performance of a lifetime. Mila Kunis also gives a fine performance as Lily, Nina's competitor and in some ways her other half. Lily is what I would expect a ballerina to be; sensual, confident, and exciting. Her eyes are hauntingly beautiful, big and bright. Her eyes show that she is full of life, which is the exact opposite of Nina. Kunis also has an excellent tone of voice. It is young and vibrant, just like Lily is supposed to be. Other great performances would include Vincent Cassel as the director Thomas. He was great at being the stubborn and unforgiving director. He had a great voice that seemed to fit perfectly. Winona Ryder appeared as the replaced ballerina Beth. She didn't have a major role but her time was well spent on screen. Her portrayal as the angry and resentful Beth is superb. Barbara Hershey also gave a fine performance as Erica. She was great as the pushy mother, her tone made it seem like she had the psychological need to live through her daughter. Black Swan definitely contains some of this year's best performances.
Visually, the film is stunning. One of the best parts of the films was the actual ballet dances. The dances were marvelous, choreographed to the upmost perfection. One moment in particular that stood out was the final moments during the show of Swan Lake. Portman apparently had extensive training in this style of dance and it shows. Her movements are accurate and precise. It was entertaining to watch her movements change from beginning to end. In the beginning, her black swan performance was unsure while her white swan performance was perfect. But by the end, she has shed her white swan and fully personified the black swan. Her movements are strong and beautiful, a real pleasure to watch. Portman's black swan makeup should also be mentioned. During her black swan debut, Portman has fiery red eyes which are lingering and unforgettable. The red eyes contrast great with her white face. Also, the uses of different mirrors are spectacular. The mirrors are used to show the many faces of Nina and her transformation into madness. All of the scenes in which Portman is looking into a mirror stood out to me. One scene I found fantastic was when Portman was standing in between two mirrors, which showed multiple of her in the mirrors. I also found symbolism in the mirrors, seeing them as a way that she is still somewhat connected to her former self, but when she shatters that final mirror it becomes her finally losing herself. The mirrors give viewers a fantastic look at how she looked at herself at the beginning and how she looks at herself at the end.
Darren Aronofsky presents us with a brilliantly directed film. His use of camera angles and interesting viewpoints really make Black Swan stand out among some of this year's other films. He takes the camera father into the characters, rather than just standing by and observing. He uses the same movements as the dancers, taking the journey with them rather than just watching them. As a viewer, we get to experience those beautiful movements as well. He takes what could have been a simple story and tells it in such a way that it becomes complex. It is always entertaining to watch a film that would appear to be beautiful actually have such a horrifying twist.
What Struck Out:
The only thing that seemed to turn me off from Black Swan would be the sexuality. I normally do not mind scenes that involve sexual acts, but this just didn't seem to fit like it should. Ballet in itself is such a sensual act that it would be more interesting to see them dancing with their lust and desire rather than just throwing it around. The emotional rollercoaster the characters and viewers went on could have been intensified that much more if there weren't those sexual scenes. I couldn't help but think while watching it that it would have been so much better if it was shown through their dance, helping in Nina's final transformation. Instead, it felt more like an unnecessary and awkward part of the film. I can understand how other viewers can see the sexuality as one the things affecting Nina's transformation, but I just didn't take anything away from it.
Does Black Swan Take the Victory:
By all means, Black Swan is one of the best films of the year. It is a beautiful example of the pressures of perfection on anyone. It is appealing because it is in some ways relatable to an experience most of us have had in the past. The story is intense and interesting, providing viewers with a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a ballerina. Finally, there is a film with substance that is not only a joy to watch but provides the viewers with actual thoughts and emotions. The acting is a superb example of why we have awards shows such as the Oscars. The actors in this film need to be recognized for their outstanding performances. It was astounding to watch Portman change before my eyes. Aronofsky gives another fine turn as the director of this film. He has left his style and mark on this film, and I couldn't imagine it being anyone else. Black Swan is a reminder of how all movies should be made and it is not one to pass up if there is the opportunity to watch it.