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Movies Review

Black Swan

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Natalie Portman as Nina in Black Swan
Released on Friday, Jan 21 2011

Darren Aronofsky's mesmerising masterpiece is an audacious look at the cut-throat world of ballet, merging beauty with brutality and gritty realism with unexpected fantastical elements. Natalie Portman's bold performance propels us into the tormented mind of a professional athlete with the same raw power as Mickey Rourke in Aronofsky's previous effort The Wrestler. Indeed, the initial stages of Black Swan function as a companion piece to that movie, before taking a very different approach to its subject matter - but an equally gripping one.

The plot follows Portman's ballerina Nina in a fraught production of Swan Lake, taking place under the auspices of acclaimed (and very naughty) director Thomas LeRoy (Vincent Cassel). Through Aronofsky's tight framing and grainy imagery, we're transported into a nightmarish world governed by the physical and mental ravages resulting from Nina's dedication to her art. The bitchy rivalry inherent within the ballet company and a domineering matriarch (Barbara Hershey) threaten to drag her psyche down into the terminal abyss, but apparent salvation arrives in the form of spunky fellow ballerina Lilly (Mila Kunis). But is all as it seems? Of course not - especially when Aronofsky, at critical junctures, makes Requiem For A Dream look like a feel-good flick in comparison.

Black Swan never shies away from taking massive storytelling, thematic and visual twists, often coming dangerously close to derailing throughout the final act. Therein lies the fragile and flawed beauty at its core. Without her mole, would Cindy Crawford have commanded the same visual power? The arguable imperfections of Black Swan serve to strengthen its impact, creating a multitude of talking points and heightening the cinematic experience by veering off in jarring directions. A supremely rewarding film, Black Swan harnesses its complex subject matter through Aronofsky's genius and uniformly excellent portrayals of the damaged characters. It would be a travesty if Portman is overlooked for an Oscar, especially given the baffling decision not to reward Rourke with one.


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