Friday, December 10, 2010

Black Swan

Sharp is one word that kept running through my mind when watching Darren Aronofsky's masterful suspense thriller Black Swan. Sharp cuts, blades, reflections, remarks and choreography. The comparison to The Archer's 1948 classic The Red Shoes is unmistakable, however I found Vincent Cassel's comparison to Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg's work very impressive. Especially the hospital, wheelchair, knife to the fucking face scene...Cronenberg would be creaming in his pants if he saw that. The apartment/prison that Nina (Natalie Portman) shares with her mother (Barbara Hershey) is reminiscint of the apartment in Rosemary's Baby, very unsettling.

After witnessing The Red Shoes and Black Swan I have come to realize the level of dedication, sacrifice and competition that a ballet dancer must carry with them always. They possess an intense personality that portrays them as a high-strung , dry personality in society. Both movies question the sanity of the protagonist, creating a strong sense of ambiguity. We become aware of the bombardment of mirrors used as mise en scene from the very beginning and it gets our mind working as we attempt to figure out what is going on. Is Lily (Mila Kunis) Nina's darker half? Is the mother behind Nina's mind-state? Are Lily and Thomas (Vincent Cassel) really messing with Nina's career? The way that Aronofsky represents Nina's state of mind, actions and reactions is brilliant and conveys a dark atmosphere from beginning to end.

We become aware that Nina is insane, but when did she snap? Was she always demented or was it through the vigorous torment from Thomas her teacher, her mother or her fellow dancers that drove her over the edge and to perfection. All these themes of jealousy, aggression, passion and determination are played to death in the movie world, but the way Aronofsky expresses them in Black Swan is a process that is worthy of suspense masters Hitchcock, De Palma and Polanski. Yet at the same time Aronofsky follows in the not so subtle ways of Craven, Carpenter and Cronenberg. He gives us the set piece of the mystery and then knocks us down with gore and body modification that confuses the audience, who aren't sure what to label what they are seeing: Suspense or supernatural. Of course Black Swan belongs in the former category, but it is Aronofsky's dark visual style that makes this old tale refreshing. I'd give him the title of 'western culture's Takashi Miike' currently seeking treatment.

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