I was invited to a screening for the film Black Swan on the 23rd at the Paris Theatre in Midtown, upon walking in there was a security line where you had to check in your cellphone, a trend I’ve noticed at recent screenings such as Kanye’s Runaway screening which I attended in October. The crowd was great, it seemed as if the whole upper eastside & westside was in attendance, the theater was packed, and the movie was simply amazing. The security was intense for this screening and it did add a great effect of exclusivity being one of the first to view this film. The security was intense for this screening and the ushers used nightvision goggles during the showing to monitor if any illicit recordings were taking place, and it did add a great effect of exclusivity
Hit more to read my review of the film.
A constantÂ theme in the arts throughout the ages has always been about dark obsession. Ahab’s obsessionÂ with huntingÂ Moby Dick, Marlow descending into Darkness along the Congo, and with Darren Aronofsky’s latest movie Black Swan is a visual immersion into a world of obsession, that is dark and pure in its all consuming nature.
The opening scene sets the tone for the film, a dream sequence in which Nina (played by Natalie Portman) visualizes herself as the lead in Swan Lake. The play which is directed byÂ ThomasÂ Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel) is a demanding, obsessive, but weirdly nurturing, almost bordering on insane perfectionism director who molds andÂ embedsÂ his vision into his dancers. Nina desparately makes it her goal to land the lead of Swan Lake, and takes this goal to neurotic heights by stalking the current star Beth McIntyre (played by Winona Ryder). In surreal scenes Nina is found absconding into Beth’s dressing room to steal her earrings, lipstick, nail files and other items, in a bizarre fantasy of gaining the role through kleptomaniac osmosis of the current lead. This drama is the stage which the themes of obsession and perfection and its meaning to the characters shows itself to the viewer.
The irony of this journey is that the main characters go into a dark world of metamorphosis, which contrasts to the beauty and elegance of the ballet of Swan Lake. The darkness of Nina’s life and the upbringingÂ byÂ her perfectionist mother reels Nina into a series of hallucinations and visions of insecurity, alienation, rebellion and varied other complex themes.Â It should be noted that Portman’s portrayal of Nina is flawless in her composure as a ballerina. It seems as if her 10 months of ballet training was done at the highest levels in Julliard, and sheÂ should be commended for her devotion to bringing the reality of thisÂ character to life. The allegory of the ballet seeps intoÂ Nina’s life eventually and a dark metamorphosis is schizophrenically actualized by Nina into a delusion of herself actually being the Black Swan.
To show the levels of this dark obsession, Aronofsky employs a multitude of surreal dark hallucinatory scenes that are similar to scenes in the movie Devil’s Advocate, but more grounded in the modern world of ballet instead of aÂ symbolic religious iconicÂ world in the former. The scenes are disturbing, evocative yet hauntingly resonating in their effect. They make the viewer cringe, because most of us at one point in our lives have had that quest for perfection and its effect on all other aspects of our livesÂ is a dark place we all know. There are many similarities to be drawn to this movie and Aronofsky’s last film The Wrestler, both main characters strive to be the best at their craft despite the havoc it wreaks on their personal lives. The Wrestler’s main character suffered physically from years of abuse to his body, and the alienation of his daughter in his personal life, whileÂ Nina’s scars are psychological and she finds herself drawn to Thomas Leroy in an attempt to form an unhealthy relationship. Cassel is to commended as well for his portrayal of a manipulative director who brings out the dark sexual side of Nina with no regard to her mental well-being. Leroy has a classic line in the movie that encapsulates his character brilliantly in his pushing of Nina, “You can be brilliant, but you are a coward.”
The movie overall is an excellent visual portrayal of a theme that prevails throughout cinema and literature for the main reason that in our human quest for perfection, the darkest sides of our character are often revealed. To set this dark emergence of flaws against the backdrop of the white and black swan in Swan Lake is a brilliant insight by Aronofsky and is an effort that should be watched if you enjoy his previous films that deal with peeling back the layers of his complex characters. Swan Lake does so with more a refined touch suited for the ballet world, and should be watched this time of year when a trip to the ballet isn’t out of the realm for most people during the holiday season.