For school one year I had to write a film review. I can’t really remember the details, but what I do remember is being given a list of movies to pick from. Well, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan was on this list and, being unaware of what the film was really about aside from it being a ‘ballet movie’ I thought it would be a good idea to watch it for family movie night. Yep, 16-year-old me watched Black Swan with my parents and my 13-year-old sister. As you might expect, I found it incredibly disturbing and considered it a film that probably shouldn’t be on any kind of school list. And what with all the self-harm, violence, horror and sexual content, I was pretty scarred.
Fast forward a few years and I see that Black Swan is on. “It can’t be as bad as I remember,” I say to myself. “I’m sure I can handle it now.”
Oh, how wrong a person can be.
It was still disturbing and pretty much the only upside to watching it a second time was that I knew when to cover my eyes. Yep, I am an adult human being and there were times [plural] when I actually covered my eyes like a small child.
So, am I just a weakling who shouldn’t be watching horror films? Probably. Look, I’m not an idiot, I am fully aware that the film was trying to make its audience uncomfortable and confused. Well, mission accomplished in that respect, Mr. Aronofsky. Job well done.
If you haven’t seen Black Swan, it depicts the physical and mental struggle of Nina (Natalie Portman), a young ballerina, as she comes to terms with her sexuality and strives to embody the black swan as well as the white swan when she is cast as the lead in her ballet company’s performance of Swan Lake.
The trailer below will give you the gist of the film.
A lot of what happens in Black Swan is not clear. Some might see this as clever ambiguity but I myself see it as a bit of a cop-out. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good unexplained moment as much as the next person but there were just too many of them. Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I do not want, at the end of a movie, to not know for sure whether the main character is dead or not! I didn’t invest 2 hours of my life for that kind of never-to-be-resolved cliff-hanger!
In saying all of this, I definitely find the movie interesting and there are aspects of it that I think were really well done. Obviously, Natalie Portman is incredible and very much earns her Academy Award, but I also find the central themes of the film fascinating, particularly how these themes affect one another. Nina’s struggle to embody the black swan and to achieve perfection creates an intriguing conflict. While Nina has no trouble dancing the part of the White Swan she cannot be the ‘perfect’ Swan Queen without mastering the part of the Black Swan as well, but she cannot become the Black Swan until she embraces her sensuality and lets go of her obsession with getting the technique absolutely perfect.
I can’t really decide whether this is a clever film and I’m just dumb or a dumb film that people pretend to like in order to seem clever. In any case, it is a great film for discussion so let me know in the comments what you love, hate and are confused about with regards to Black Swan.