Black Swan – Film Review

‘Black Swan’ is a haunting psychosexual thriller with a dark, visceral beauty that is unmatched by any other film in recent years. The picture draws from such notable directors as Dario Argento (‘Opera’ 1987), David Cronenberg (‘The Fly’ 1986), Roman Polanski (‘Repulsion’ 1965) and David Lynch (‘Mulholland Drive’ 2001) but references them subtly in order to craft an entirely original concept.

Mainstream audience will be more akin to the bewildering worlds of Michael Gondry and Charlie Kauffman, who deal with warped narratives drawing from artistic articulations of the mind, but may not be so familiar with this darker form of cinema. Not for around a decade has a film of this nature been exposed to such a wide audience as this; ‘Black Swan’ is truly a genre piece for the 21st Century. The trailer below is brilliantly edited and gives an accurate distillation of what to expect from the film:

Using the confusing nature of the lead character mind to buckle and misshape the narrative throughout puts the audience in a state of constant flux, disorientating us and allowing our untrustworthy narrator to blur the lines between fact and hallucination. ‘Black Swan’ is a giddy, head-trip which gets under your skin and refuses to move.

The references to good/bad and black/white, are all easy to decode and appreciate as the main character, Nina Sayers, is pulled apart by these opposing forces. However, it is the internal psychological conflict between ego and id that drives the movie to such dark and disturbing extremes and that is where Natalie Portman truly earns her Oscar (she hasn’t won it yet but, if she doesn’t, then a severe injustice will have been served). Her performance is perfectly crafted and honed to a level of intricacy that no other actress has been able to deliver this year.

Clint Mansell’s score is a haunting adaption of the original ‘Swan Lake’ composition by Tchaikovsky and uses innovative digital manipulations to skew the instruments sounds which blur the line between the soundtrack and the diegetic sound onscreen.  Sadly, the music was disqualified from this years Oscar nominations as it draws too heavily from previous materials [1]. The full soundtrack can be listened to for free below thanks to Empire Magazine and SlashFilm (please see the links below for the full score) [2] [3]:

Cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, does an astounding job of shooting the film, especially the dance sequences which are spectacularly dizzying. This, coupled with the production design, paint a gloriously haunted and surreal portraiture of obsession infused with the contrast between the conscious ego and the raw, primitive darkness of the unconscious id. ‘Black Swan’ soars on the wings of imagination with elegiac grace, stirring art and painful beauty.






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