After an exhausting 3-movie day (followed by an ill advised trip to a club) on Friday September 17th, my ninth and last TIFF film of 2010 was Daron Aronofsky’s highly anticipated Black Swan. Being a fan of Aronofsky’s work, I was particularly looking forward to his return in the exploration and exploitation of the human mind in which he briefly stepped away from with The Wrestler. In other words, he’s back to mind f*** us, and we love it.
Throughout Aronofsky’s career, he has brilliantly revealed the captivating psychosis of his characters from drugs, love, fantasy to time-travel, but no one would even fathom exploring the dark psychology of ballet to the extent of Black Swan. For those who know about being a devoted ballet dancer is that it comes hand in hand with a tremendous amount of stress and strain to both the body and the mind. Black Swan takes the difficulties of this strenuous art form and emphasizes them with beauty, pain and anxiety.
Black Swan revolves around the production of Swan Lake by the New York City Ballet Company. Director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace veteran ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) with Nina (Natalie Portman). Wanting to make a unique version of Swan Lake, Leroy decides to cast the White Swan and Black Swan to be played by one person. Nina gets the part and goes through psychological, physical and emotional trauma in order to embody both the innocent and the aggressive personalities of both swans. On top of that, Lily (Mila Kunis), a new ballerina joining the company threatens Nina’s role as the Black Swan.
Black Swan blends the psychological thriller with hints of the horror genre and beautiful dance sequences. The total emersion of the characters and the audience into a narrative that is constantly parrying between illusion and reality while revolving around excellently choreographed ballet leaves you breathless and continuously questioning the tangibility of many scenes. Many argue that this is Aronofsky’s best film but it is hard to say with The Wrestler and more notably Requiem of a Dream hanging on his resume. But what I can say is that this may be Natalie Portman’s best dramatic performance to date. I definitely will not be surprised to see both their names up on nomination ballets come January.
PS: I would have thought that the TIFF People’s Choice Award would either go to Black Swan or 127 Hours, but it was awarded to The King’s Speech. If both Black Swan and 127 Hours are Oscar-caliber in my eyes, I wonder what The King’s Speech would be? A must-see it seems.