Dear Black Swan,
I am, even so soon after meeting you for the first time, completely and utterly confident in the fact that we will spend our lives together. At the very least you will be forever in my heart and mind, replaying over and over, twisting and turning. Visions of you will visit me now and then, unsolicited and unheralded. I will judge whole genres based on you, and I am certain most will be found wanting.
You are a layered, gorgeous, frightening and utterly compelling, and I cannot imagine a world in which we are not joined in the future.
You see, Black Swan, from the moment that I first saw the trailer for you, I was hooked. Your director, Darren Aronofsky, has been a favorite of mine since I first became enamored with the art of film. Natalie Portman, who plays your main character, Nina, has shown so much promise in the past that I constantly look forward to seeing if she will deliver on her own promise.
Of course you did not disappoint.
You begin in a dream of darkness with a shaft of blinding light, a dancer being stalked by the form of a monster. From there the movie progresses to the real world, where the Nina is being stalked by a number of her own monsters. Fear of failure, self-doubt, the darkness of her mother’s shadow. The camera hovers so tightly behind Nina’s head throughout most of the movie that we feel as though we as the audience are these doubts, constantly peering over her shoulder. And perhaps we, as one more member of her beloved and feared audience, actually are.
This lends the film a claustrophobia which is only heightened by the operatic score, the set design, and the muted dark and light colors. Even a few moments into my time with you I was already feeling as tightly wound as the ribbons on the point shoes on Nina’s feet.
Added to your aesthetic, story, and technical aspects is the power of your performers. Barbara Hershey as Nina’s overbearing and controlling mother is perfect in the way she embodies barely-concealed eagerness to live vicariously through her daughter. Vincent Cassel is entrancing as a ballet director who may be a lech, or simply adept at using his position of power and his sensuality to drive his performers to their full potential. Mila Kunis also displays a force and ability that I would not have guessed her capable of based on her previous roles in TV and film.
Your real selling point, though, the true source of your influence over me, is Nina herself, Natalie Portman. Her portrayal of a woman struggling with every aspect of her nature in the pursuit of perfection in her art is flawless. She, as an actress, understands and controls the very thing that Nina, as a dancer, struggles with – the necessity of emotion and passion in art. From the first moment I saw her my heart went out to her. The look on her face, the pained, frightened expression that never waned or broke, was a heartbreaking reminder of the lifetime’s worth of torment that this young woman carried with her. The fact that she was able to so effortlessly communicate her character’s pain and desire through just her face made it that much easier to find the place in which empathy was possible.
This is to say nothing of your intense psychological and supernatural elements, all of which are well-executed, and well-earned. Nothing about you rings false, and your sincerity and commitment to your own ideas makes following Nina’s journey through your story all the more easy.
I could, in truth, continue to talk about you for quite some time, Black Swan. Every aspect of you is, in my eyes, worthy of close scrutiny and endless discussion. But I will bid you farewell for now, and allow your mysteries to wash over me.
Until we meet again, Black Swan, I hold you close to me. May our time apart be brief.