Black Swan

Black Swan: when a devoted ballet dancer finally gets featured in the lead role of Swan Lake she has to deal with all the pressures that drove her predecessor crazy. To get it out of the way, nobody does ‘descending into madness’ quite like Aranofsky – and this is no different in that you genuinely have no idea if what your seeing is real, unreal, paranoia, hallucinations, fantasy, or mental illness. The second half on the film in particular has some genuinely chilling and thrilling scenes. To begin with the camerawork feels awkward and unnecessary – walking shots behind the heads – but it works surprisingly well for most of the film – particularly when it starts spinning around the dancers. The film also uses SFX outstandingly, and wiping out the cameramen in the reflections gives the viewer a strange haunting sensation. The new-age classical soundtrack is nothing short of stunning. Although I wasn’t convinced by the first 40 minutes, seeing the complex relationships (mum, teacher, peer) develop is thoroughly enjoyable, particularly because the film always keeps you guessing. Cassel and the Hershey both give show-stopping performances, although they’re overshadowed by Portman who puts everything out there, and becomes the definition of fragile, slowly and believably transforming into a woman on the brink of madness. Don’t understand the big deal around theater walk outs – it’s definitely not for the prudish, but there’s nothing offensive here. Despite everything in front of the camera being golden, the real star is the man behind it, who gets everything pitch perfect and creates an absolutely stunning finale. Ballet’s never been this sexy and dramatic.

Score: 8/10

  1. ‘bed 1-0 ballet dancer’
    brilliant film, too


    • Castor said:

      I’m not sure what she was doing on the bed, when she was holding her groin. What was wrong with her?


  2. Stu said:

    Astute review. Short and to the point.
    I was very impressed with this film, as well.
    Gave it 89 words.


  3. Yea, seems to be a bit of a divisive one. Not usually a Aranofsky fan (Requiem is pish) but this one really hooked me in after the 40-minute mark.


  4. Rick said:

    “Despite everything in front of the camera being golden, the real star is the man behind it, who gets everything pitch perfect and creates an absolutely stunning finale.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Aranofsky is the star of this film. His presence is palpable. This was a thrilling movie to watch and the pace felt like a contant state of hyperventilation. That can be dangerously exhausting, but in Aranofsky’s hands it was dangerously exhilirating.


  5. Yeah I didn’t really like Requiem for a Dream – great technique and evocation of drug addicts going off the boil – but in the end i didn’t give a shit about the characters, so i lost interest.
    In Black Swan though, the pacing and the visuals are engaging and I was kind of blown away by the scene when she turns into a swan.
    A fan of your site, if you have 2 secs, check out my film review blog, with a Black Swan review –


  6. Andrew said:

    Best film of 2010, easy. For all of Aronofsky’s excellence, this is really Portman’s film– she’s never been as good as she is here (though arguments can be made for Closer or Leon), and she really, really is that good. Not to cast a shadow of doubt on Aronofsky, for whom this could also be a career-best.

    I think Cassell is being woefully underappreciated in the awards races; it takes real talent to take a character like Thomas and finely walk the line between lascivious creep and brilliant artist, but he makes it look totally effortless.


  7. My favorite film from Aronofsky so far but I feel his masterpiece is yet to be made.

    Portman and Kunis were really good together. Just sayin’!


  8. Roy said:

    Thought Aranofsky jumped the shark with “Requiem for a Dream”, glad to see he’s back on formed. Been a Cassell fan since Doberman. Batty. Loved it.


    • Paragraph Film Reviews said:

      Man, I hate requiem with a passion. It just felt like an extended anti-drug use commercial. One of the most depressing films out there.


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