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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Black Swan

Spellbinding & Flawless


Black Swan is a spellbinding highway of a film where every exit and turnpike only leads to more flawlessness. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a Manhattan ballerina whose love for the art surrounds every corner of her life. When the company's artistic director Thomas (Vincent Cassell) replaces his primal dancer Beth (Winona Ryder) for their opening production of Swan Lake, Nina gets the part.


Unfortunately for Nina, winning the lead requires her to take on the pressure of dancing both swans, the white and the black. Nina is perfect for the role of the graceful, composed and fragile white swan. The black swan is confident, sensual, and freeing which completely symbolizes Lily, (Mila Kunis) Beth’s replacement. Nina is immediately intimidated by Lily and as the day of the performance gets closer, Nina’s obsession to be perfect becomes all-consuming, sending her into a spiral of psychological madness.


Black Swan is a film where the word perfect is dangerous territory but Natalie Portman delivers a performance submerged in perfection. She remains composed in crisis but you can sense her body shaking. Dance isn't just a crucial puzzle piece of Nina’s life. Dance IS her life. Dance is her identity. This is the case for most dancers as most of them sacrifice so much of themselves for the lives they live. They're like mothers. They don't have lots of time for personal lives and within their bodies, they just give and give and give.


The professional life of a dancer is fairly short and once Beth leaves the company, Nina knows it's only a matter of time until she's replaceable as well. Legacy is the only way leaving dance is bearable to her and that's partly why she's always striving to be perfect. Mostly, it just goes back to dance being her identity. If she's not a perfect dancer, it's as though she's a bad person.


Of course, this is pure nonsense but someone so far in depth of Nina’s mental psyche can't even consider this. Nina's overbearing mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey) was also a ballet dancer whose career came to a screeching halt when she became pregnant and Nina feels incredibly guilty for it but also resentful.


Mila Kunis is so far removed from the kind of life Nina’s living, it's as though she resides on another planet, entirely: Planet currency. For Lily, everything is current. She's not concerned at all about the future. Living in the moment is her way of life and while it doesn't take long for Nina to see her as a rival, audiences will most likely gather that Lily is simply just a more secure person than Nina. She eats hamburgers, goes clubbing and her sex life is very full. “Ballet is not for everyone,” she says at one point. The delivery of this line is very observant, as though Lily is just realizing this now.


She just doesn't identify with the atmosphere that Nina and all the other dancers share. I think it also has a lot to do with cultural differences. Lily arrived straight off the plane from California. The west has a much happier approach to life in comparison to the cold winters of the east and Lily probably won't stay in New York for as long as she initially thought.


Her attempts to sincerely befriend Nina don't make Nina's life any easier. Nina's already under massive amounts of stress, she's taking it out on her body and I personally believe that Lily just feels sorry for her. Nina’s focus is entirely on her pending legacy and her doomed odyssey traps her in a pandemic of her own flesh and bones.


It would be refreshing to suggest that Black Swan is a film about breaking free. It would be easier, more politically desirable. Black Swan is anything but easy. It's not entertaining but it is one of the most interesting films I've ever seen in my life. Interest is what draws people to indies and Black Swan will keep your senses locked in throughout the film.


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