Home > Movies, Reviews (Movies) > [Review] Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010)

[Review] Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010)

Oh, the melodrama! Oh, the self-indulgence! Oh, the decadence! Oh, the bare assumptions!

Black Swan tells us little more than we already know — art is difficult, (absolute) perfection isn’t possible, and pressure can kill you. Despite these cliché’s and the indulgent, Romantic segments, Black Swan is intense. It harnesses a type of psychological depth which Aronofsky is particularly capable of achieving. First of all, he makes anxiety palpable. In scenes where Nina is among all of the dancers warming up, the editing shifts in rhythm; not too quickly, not too slowly. It is like our brain switching direction. We are changing our minds with her. We are seeing our competition and knowing we are inferior. Aronofsky has a unique gift to pass stress on to the audience, especially when they’re in the dark. This transferred anxiety is the price of creation. The price of beauty. In fact, what is Black Swan aside from the question — how much does perfection cost? It isn’t an indictment of eating disorders and aggressive teachers, but it is an intimate document, albeit fictional, of creativity and hard work — and what that combination is capable of. Is it in opposition to all creativity? Is Aronofsky telling people to stop working so hard? Those are all the wrong questions. The real question is: are you willing? How far are you ready to go? Black Swan is ultimately a celebration, in bright white bliss, of creation and having a fatal devotion to it. The mirror. Her vanity. Her incessant desire kills her. Not work.

Aside from the thick thesis of Black Swan, it is right to commend so many components. The camera motion is some of the best in recent history. It is as choreographed as the dancers, moving with precision and beauty. It is also a psychological unit. The camera is always on the fringe of Nina’s head, a bird of prey ready to abduct her sanity.

Natalie Portman performs with humble brilliance. The role is an impossible one. A child. A genius. A masochist. So sheltered. The scene in which she masturbates on her bed only to see her mom sleeping close by is a nugget of gold. It shows such profound loneliness. It illuminates her sexual need for her mother because her father is gone. Was she imagining her father? It is a cinematic moment that makes movies the thing that they are. It says a million words in thirty seconds. In addition to Portman’s career best, we have an encouraging performance from Mila Kunis, real or not.

Black Swan and Aronofsky understand how much we need to understand ourselves. And how destructive that can be. Nina meets fate in the form of a mirror. It is nothing but her own vanity and obsession that kill her. Not hard work. Not looking for perfection. Nina dies for her inability to be both black and white.


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