• James Rutherford

‘Black Swan’: An Astonishing Psychological Thriller About a Ballerina on the Very Edge of Sanity


Movie poster for the film Black Swan starring Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel

“Black Swan” (2010) is a breathtaking psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, a professional dancer in a New York City ballet company. The exhaustively committed Nina pines desperately for the lead role in a new production of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake”, after prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (“Winona Ryder”) is forced into retirement.


Challenged to fulfill the dual role of both the virtuous White Swan and the sensuous Black Swan, Nina ultimately earns the nod despite her difficulties in emulating the darker nuances of the latter character. In rehearsals she is challenged by her artistic director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), to observe newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis), a brash fledgling who freely possesses the uninhibited quality that Nina dearly lacks. The two young women soon develop a twisted partnership, beset by competitiveness, camaraderie and an undercurrent of simmering sexuality. Yet as rehearsals proceed and production quickly approaches, Nina’s growing anxieties quickly manifest themselves in the form of abject paranoia and twisted hallucinatory spells—leading her down a path of festering madness as she utterly subsumes herself into the titular role.


Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”, “The Wrestler”), “Black Swan” is a mesmerizing and beguiling creation in the form of a full-on psychological horror. In her Academy Award winning performance, Portman is simply phenomenal in a role she was born to fulfill—so remarkably human yet fiercely beholden to her craft and unbridled yearning for artistic perfection. Featuring one of the most jaw-dropping finales in recent cinematic memory, “Black Swan” is truly something to behold: a darkly terrifying masterpiece from one of cinema’s most accomplished auteurs at the very top of his game.

 

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