Most films can be categorized into two groups, on the one hand are the films that’s exciting to watch, but are quickly forgotten once the credit rolls. On the other hand are films that may appear dull at first, but can prove to be very thought provoking. However, once in a while comes a film so unique that it defies such categorisation. Instead of appealing either to the senses or the intellect, these films speaks directly to the heart. Black Swan is one such film.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film presents a mesmerizing tale about transformation and perfection. The plot revolves around the production of a variation on Tchaikovsky’s ballet, Swan Lake. Due to the ballet company’s rebranding, Nina (Natalie Portman), a young, ambitious ballet dancer was chosen to be the principal of the show and the new face for the company. As a result, the former principal Beth (Winona Ryder) was forced into retirement. Unable to meet the demand of her role, weighed down by the guilt of a car accident Beth got into, and faced with the very real threat of Lily (Mila Kunis), a new dancer who seems to be plotting against her, Nina is driven to the brink of delerium and seeks to save herself through the perfection of her art.
Black Swan’s dark and haunting tone was established since the very beginning and is carried throughout the film. As the plot progresses, though the first two third of the film can seems rather normal, but a sense of dread permeates every scene and every shot. Because of this, the atmosphere seemed almost repulsive, but at the same time it is poetic and beautiful in a very morbid way. With its artful expressions, lyrical narratives, and a sense of suspense even horror fans could appreciate, the film slowly pulls the audience from a world of hardworking ballet dancers to a world of complete and utter madness. Curiously, what’s evoked by this madness is not fear, but anxiety, which, in a strange fashion, made the film extremely enchanting.
Albeit the almost magical quality of Black Swan, it is not just a conviniently constructed fantasy. Instead, it is solidly rooted in reality. Aronofsky was able to faithfully reproduce the intricacies of an an artist’s desire for perfection. Unlike many films, Nina’s transformation from an average dancer to full fledged swan queen does not happen in a few collaged sequences of shots that takes no more than two minutes, by the end of which she comes out ready to take on the world. As if changes are that easy. Instead, the entire 110 minutes is devoted to her transformation, up until the last shot when she lies peacefully on the floor and quietly utters “I was perfect.”