Black Swan (2010)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John McLaughlin

I love movies and I know that is because they are escapes, just like a good book or a good piece of music. What I love most about movies are their ability to move me emotionally and make me happy and hopeful. Sadly, this is not one of those movies, yet I still love it. It is true, I prefer the happy, fun movies to the sad, depressing ones, but that does not mean I can’t recognize a great film and a great collaborative effort in that genre when I see one. Black Swan is dark, suspenseful and depressing in many ways, but that is what I have come to expect from director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler). Here it is the themes and how the film deals with them that make it a truly remarkable film.

The story is that of Nina (Natalie Portman). Nina is a ballet dancer at a company in New York and she is extremely dedicated; more dedicated than anyone you have seen. She is also a perfectionist, always striving for her performance, her life, to be perfect. She deals with her loving mother (Barbara Hershey) as well as her director (Vincent Cassell) and fellow dancers Lily (Mila Kunis) and falling star Beth (Winona Ryder). So when the company decides its next show will be Swan Lake, the story of the White Swan and her evil twin the Black Swan, Nina strives for the part of the Swan Queen, and when she gets it, her life becomes a paranoid, stressful mess. What is central to the film are the performances, first and foremost Natalie Portman in the lead role who will definitely get an Oscar nod. But everyone here delivers.

Aronofsky has always been an interesting filmmaker to me, even if I struggled to appreciate Pi and Requiem for a Dream. He deals with dark themes like addiction, obsession and the role of the sexes in society. Here he investigates the idea of femininity and perfection. There is such great imagery and many great metaphors throughout the film that work really well. Nina is obsessed, obsessed with perfection of herself. We see her obsession through the many mirrors and visions she has. She creates a world around herself to convince herself that perfection is not yet attained. I saw this to be a great parallel to the perception of women in today’s society. There is a sense, through media, that beauty and perfection are something to be pursued and that women aren’t good enough as is. Obviously it is a ridiculous sentiment, but it seems to ring true to too many people too often. Nina cannot see the good in herself and her wonderful talent as a dancer and immense beauty. She is even blinded to the love that her mother provides for her. There is even more I could talk about that is how good it is, but I will leave you with this. To all the women in my life, and those not: perfect is not what you want to be because perfection is boring. Be yourself because you are beautiful just the way you are. And to those who think differently, just forget about them.

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