Natalie Portman does a Heath Ledger…
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey & Vincent Cassel
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Screenplay by: Mark Heyman, Adres Heinz & John J McLaughlin
Nina (Portman) lands the lead role in the latest production of Swan Lake and increasingly becomes more and more obsessed with perfecting the role, gradually losing her grip on reality.
Darren Aronofsky is more than happy to mix things up for his fifth feature film, Black Swan. Fusing different genres (horror, psychodrama, musical) and referencing classics like The Red Shoes and a lot of Roman Polanski’s early work. Thankfully though the film never jars. It remains as fluid as the ballerinas themselves with the only slight misstep being Winona Ryder’s hysterical turn as an ageing performer.
Aronofsky’s previous effort, The Wrestler comes to mind too with the director once again brilliantly showcasing the inner workings of the performance world. Also, the dancing sequences exhibit the same close-up elegance, aided by Matthew Libatique’s magnificent photography. This is a film about obsession and it’s a theme that runs through everything from the main character to the set and sound design including Clint Mansell’s harsh score that goes hand-in-hand with Nina’s descent into madness.
Natalie Portman is a revelation as Nina, our hearts may not go out to her but Portman nails everything required for a character gradually losing their grip on reality. It’s a fearless performance and the Oscar buzz is fully justified. Meanwhile, Mila Kunis convincingly plays the part of temptation whilst Vincent Cassel is a simmering delight as the artistic director and Barbara Hershey gets under-the-skin as Nina’s controlling mother.
Concluding with a thrilling performance of Swan Lake, the picture eventually fades out on a beautiful grace note with the sound of thunderous applause still echoing into the credits, which is fitting for a film as assured as this one.