Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This semi movie review of Black Swan has been inevitable, given that I've been unsuccessful in getting the movie out of my head since seeing it on Sunday night.
I don't really know where to start. I guess I'll say that it was a very, very well done movie brimming with eerie good performances. I'm more than certain that this year's winner of the Best Actress Oscar will be Natalie Portman who convincingly portrays an innocent ballerina who is driven slowly to insanity in her pursuit of perfection. Given the pattern already in the nominations for the Golden Globes or SAG Awards, it also looks like Mila Kunis will at least be nominated for Best Supporting Actress; while she was good, she wasn't amazing by any means - or, at least, not when compared to Winona Ryder as a disturbed ballerina fallen from her prime or Barbara Hershey (who I was compelled to look up after seeing the movie) as Natalie Portman's frightening mother. Mila Kunis has come a long way since That 70's Show, though, and I'm a fan.
I also need to note that - at least to me - the movie was falsely advertised; when it comes down to it, it was largely a horror film. Here's what I saw it as in the trailers: a movie about the competition between two ballerinas for the lead in the company production with psychological thriller aspects. Oh yes, the thriller is still intact; what I was shocked to find was that the competition between the two - Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis - is nearly non-existent, and that the central conflict is an internal one in Portman's Nina. Nina's obsession with perfection is what manifests the idea of Kunis' Lily as trying to sabotage her; Nina sees small instances of disturbance as treachery (such as, for example, Lily coming in late to an audition and slamming the door causing Nina to lose balance while dancing) and soon begins to lose herself in the idea that Lily, along with others, are out to get her. I wish that the movie WAS more about rivalry, but I feel that my surprise to the more internal insanity had me all the more invested.
If anything to describe my experience of this movie, I'll use a list of words: unsettling, uncomfortable, shocking, disturbing. Like I said, the movie felt like a horror movie; there was an overall backdrop of some foreboding presence over the entire movie, and I constantly had my guard up as I figured something was bound to happen or pop up. Towards the end of the movie at the height of the protagonist's decent was where I was curled in my seat half covering my eyes; instance after instance had me jumping a good five feet from my seated position causing my heart to skip and pound. By that point, I guess, the constant whispering noises throughout the movie up until that point were taking their toll on me (neat trick. Nina hears voices everywhere, and upon coming home after the movie late at night, I was sure I did to, my mind replaying the laughter and whispering and projecting them into what I thought was real life lurking in the corners of my house). I'll forever be haunted by the image of a character's sudden and downright terrifying self mutilation, as well as the apparition of that character in another's kitchen after whispering "sweet girl" from the darkness. I get shivers thinking about it.
Aside from the suspense, I found the movie was considerably gory, though not in the sense of a slasher film like Friday the 13th or Saw; instead, we were given long lasting shots of realistic, disgusting injuries, as Nina's nails constantly bleed (leading to something DISGUSTING), for example, or her "rash." I much preferred the style of gore presented in this movie; I'm far more affected and unnerved by cracked bleeding nails or bones breaking than I am when I see a stupid horror movie character get stabbed comically.
As I said, I can't stop thinking about the movie; I can't stop thinking about the disturbing images, but mostly, I'm still sorting out what was real and what wasn't. The audience is subjected to these confusing instances - including sex and murder - and we're left to decide whether it actually happened or if it was in the confines of Nina's mind. If anything, I'll say that the movie is one big metaphor. You'll see what I mean when and if you ever watch it (or if you already have), specifically in things like the feathers.
If you think you can stomach it, I highly, highly recommend the movie; in fact, I've already decided that I need to see it again eventually to straighten things out in my mind about what's shown.