“It’s a Polanski movie, and then it becomes a Dario Argento movie. And maybe a little bit of David Cronenberg too.”–Vincent Cassell
DIRECTED BY: Darren Aronofsky
PLOT: Nina, a goody two-shoes ballerina, wants to dance the lead role in a production of “Swan Lake,” but although she’s perfect for the role of the White Swan, she lacks the seductiveness to portray the Black Swan. Lily, a sexy, irresponsible dancer newly arrived from a San Francisco troupe, becomes her primary competition for the part, but also helps her loosen up by talking her out on the town for a night of drinking and meeting guys. Nina starts physically break down and hallucinate as the stress of preparing for the role takes its toll; by opening night, she can’t distinguish reality from the story she dances of the princess trapped in the body of a swan who takes her own life.
- Natalie Portman danced many of her own parts, and actually dislocated a rib while dancing during the shoot. More difficult moves were performed by professional ballerinas, and for two sequences Portman’s face was digitally superimposed on dancer Sarah Lane’s body. There was a minor controversy over how much of the dancing Portman actually did herself and how much was performed by doubles; Aronofsky estimated that the actress executed more than 80% of the dance moves that appear onscreen.
- Portman won the 2010 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Nina. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Editing.
- Aronofsky received “The Understudy,” the original script that became Black Swan, while he was making Requiem for a Dream (2000). He described the script as Dostoevsky’s “The Double” meets All About Eve. Aronofsky combined that script, which was set in an off-Broadway production, with an idea he had to shoot a movie in the New York ballet world to create Black Swan.
- Aronofsky and Portman had discussed doing a ballet movie together 8 years prior to shooting.
- Made on a relatively small budget of about $12 million, Black Swan has grossed more than $300 million worldwide as of this writing.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Nina’s “triumphant” onstage transformation into the Black Swan: as she pirouettes, feathers sprout from her arms, thickening with every swirl, until her limbs have been replaced by wings.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Up until opening night, Black Swan is a backstage melodrama about backstabbing ballerinas, with an exaggerated, lurid psychopathology that’s thrust even further over-the-top by lesbian love scenes, hints of horror, and mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. When the curtain rises on the big night, we experience the performance through the subjective perspective of an overworked, paranoid, demented dancer, whose psychology has been shattered by the film’s sledgehammer symbolism. No avant-grade choreographer could stage as disorienting a “Swan Lake” as the one she hallucinates for us through her obsessed eyes.
Promotional Music Video for Black Swan
COMMENTS: Black Swan is the weirdest movie ever to win a major Academy Award (Natalie Continue reading 90. BLACK SWAN (2010)