Swan Lake may have been around for almost 150 years, but there has never been anything like this before. Swan follows a ballet dancer's dream to become the main performer in a dance company and take on Swan Lake as the Swan Queen. Her life has been consumed by dancing, and when her ankle makes the first crack early on, I cringe along with her fragile body while her future flashes before her eyes. She has learned to push through any hardship of the art and business of dancing. The movie captures her personal, physical, emotional, and mental struggle to maintain consciousness in a world of imagination. The movie also does a great job on telling the story of Swan Lake. I didn't know it beforehand so I'm happy they explained the plot throughout because it definitely accentuated the movie's plot, too.
One of the themes of this movie is: Nobody is perfect, and perfection should not be a realistic expectation for anybody. The reality of this film is what pushes it over the edge--in a good way! We all know the dedication that every dancer or artist needs in order to succeed, and by stressing this point, Aronofsky creates a gritty reality. The gruesome effects that stretch Portman's imagination into reality makes the film so hard to watch at times. When she picks at her nail and ends up tearing a length of skin off, it's unbearable to watch without screaming with pain inside. However, this is only realized in Portman's imagination and leads the audience to see into her stressed and over-worked mind.
Hands down, Natalie Portman is the star of this movie. Her steady and inspiring transformation into the true Swan Queen is outstanding and is definitely Oscar-worthy! (Yes, you heard it here first folks.) The film can be split in half according to her performance: the first half as Portman being the White Swan and in the second half her inner Black Swan takes over. The director's subtle techniques and choices of shot angle and depth further this point. One of my personal favorites is when she is putting on lipstick on the train, but the shot captures her dark reflection in the glass instead of a close up shot (a reflection of the dark image which moves her forward in becoming the Black Swan).
I'm not saying the other actors aren't worthy though. Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey lead a terrific Supporting Cast. If this movie is any indication on Kunis's transformation as an actress, she has definitely shed her image as simply being Kelso's girlfriend on That 70's Show. She was perfectly cast as the dark and seductive backup Snow Queen. It's hard not to say too much about her role, so it's best just to find out first hand. Saying lesbian sex scene sounds controversial, inappropriate and unnecesarry, but it actually turns out being an important and believable scene. Portman and Kunis are both believable in their performances in this scene; this is a totally necessary facet so that it is seen as a necessary action to further the plot.
Ballet was the perfect way to interpret Aronofsky's vision of every person's inner struggle between good and evil, their white and black swans. Such a majestic and interpretive art form can suggest so many different actions and meanings to an audience. By now, you understand that this movie is quite interpretive and detail-oriented. The few and necessary effects used enhance the experience by showcasing Portman's psychological transformation from a White Swan into a Black Swan.
I would love to have the chance to work with, or alongside Darren Aronofsky, the genius behind this feature. If I ever become a filmmaker one day, he is definitely who I inspire to be. Gritty, real, dramatic, suspenseful, interpretive and intense all describe him. So anyone working with him/in Hollywood, please let him know! :)