The Black Swan

Posted: January 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Natalie Portman as Lily

Natalie Portman delivers an unbelievably convincing performance in The Black Swan, this season’s standout for brilliant and dark at the same time. Considering the character she must portray – both light and dark simultaneously, the film reflects that tension and balance.

The young aspiring ballerina, Nina, gives all of her perfected technique to win the role of Swan Queen but as she does there is much, much more to discover. She has fenced off her dark side, the subterranean passion, obsessions and sometimes terrifying force of the dark queen. To get there  she has to face her own interior terrain, escape the chains of childish consciousness and integrate all aspects of her personality.

Some have labeled The Black Swan as a pscho-sexual thriller, and perhaps it is that at least in the plot. On its most profound level, however, it is far more. In addition to integrating the disparate and disconnected parts of her psyche she is also clearly delusional. Is it schizophrenia?

It is hard enough enough for any non-psychotic person to go the distance in such an intense and highly competitive art form. Add in the murky blur between reality and fantasy and it becomes, well, next to impossible. But that is exactly where she is and where the film takes us. What is real? What is illusion? Is the world more than our perception of it or mostly a projection of our own subjective imagination?

These questions are presented by The Black Swan in the most disarming ways because we look at the world through the eyes of the swan, the main character, and are as disoriented as she. We don’t know the difference between the real and illusion either. And like other films that have done this so very well – A Beautiful Mind and Shutter Island being remarkable examples – The Black Swan asks us to look deep down in the soul and go to places we might rather not. The trip is worth the effort.

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