Fabrice's Black Swan Review

I decided to see Black Swan a second time before writing down my thoughts on the movie simply because I didn't want to make premature decisions on how I felt about the film.  I admit I had some immediate feelings the first time around that remained the second time, more or less that the film gives a very disturbing portrayal of the dance world.  
The film shows the very dark, negative side of a ballerina living a very unbalanced life.  I felt as though the writers, director, and certainly actors decided for the movie to go "all in" in order to be scary and suspenseful and well, make for a good movie.  It was as though they thought, "let's imagine what the life of the craziest ballerina and artistic director could be, and make it into a screenplay" lol.  Director, Darren Aronofsky, was also the director of Requiem for a Dream and the Wrestler.  It seems he's eager to get involved with projects where addiction or obsession of any sort (dance, drugs) are the through line.
Of course you can take any scenario that seems plausible and make the extreme seem like reality.  Of course it is plausible for a mother to over parent a child.  And in this movie, it's feasible to be an unbalanced, retired ballerina that wants to re-live her career through her daughter and force her to succeed in ways she herself did not (yes, it takes a very strong person mentally and emotionally to overcome the stress and pressures of a lead role and find success at the top of the field).  Makes for an interesting movie, anyway.  Ballet is certainly a machine that can break the weak, and selects for those to be strong in all different avenues in order to become the premier dancer.  It's things in the dancer's control and out of her control (no matter how hard she may try to be "perfection") including the look, the technique, the acting, and the presence.
In this movie Nina Sawyer (Natalie Portman) is living life (ballet) as an all consuming obsession.  She has nothing else in life besides dance.  The first rule of healthy living is separating work and home....well poor Nina Sawyer is accomplishing the complete opposite of this, sticking at the studio until the sun rises?!?!  Sadly, yes there are ballerinas like that!....Crazy!
I guess you can understand how the makers of this film could capitalize on exaggeration of our field.  You have to understand that you are dealing with ballet.  Ballet is smooth, precise, and there is no room for making a mistake.  And when there is no room for error, it can be incredibly stressful when you are performing live (in our world, there is no cut, lets do this again).  It becomes even harder when you are the prima ballerina of a company and all eyes are on you during a performance, looking at every inch of you.  Some will simply love you for who you are and admire you even if you were rolling on the floor, while there are others that are here to keep you on your toes and always portraying the best of the best (read the New York Times review on dancers).
To make a long story short, some might see this movie and think "oh god, is this the dance world? This is terrible!!". I will say this is just a scary movie starring Natalie Portman that happens to be centered around the world of dance.  As she said in the end "I was perfect"...well Nina Sawyer, as dancers we all know there is no perfection in dance as you are always on a quest of greater dancing, better technique, and a stronger sense of yourself as a performer.  Maybe she never understood this, or maybe she did, which is why things do not end well for her character in the movie (without saying too much for those that want to still see it).
Black Swan is a movie to go see for Natalie Portman's great acting, and it's definitely better than other ridiculous Hollywood movies out there like Hottub Time Machine or Green Hornets.  There is finally something that will hit you, get your brain to work a little more, but I would in no way classify this as the "greatest dance movie" or even the greatest of our time.  
Man, what happened to the time of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire??  Instead we are stuck with disturbing movies and well, Justin Beiber.  Sigh.


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  • I just went to "The Black Swan" and even though I knew the story line I was very disappointed. Natalie Portman's acting was great, and that was about it.It really does not deserve all the accolades, that it is receiving. I went to see "The King's Speech" and also one I knew nothing about "Made in Dagenham" which were far better movies than "The Black Swan". It seems that "The Black Swan is overrated, by the movie critics and they have already brainwashed people into believing it is the movie of the year. Very disappointing. See a good movie with a fantastic cast, great acting probably their best of their careers..."The Kings Speech" and go and see a lesser known movie "Made in Dagenham" as they both deserve more accolades than "The Black Swan".

  • Yes, the movie did not flow well and was segmented, but getting to the point about obsession, I believe there can also be a positive obsession. I feel that people need to lose themselves in something, like preparing for the swan role or even doing a good job at work so that there is a level of satisfaction; however, the danger is that obsession usually becomes destructive because it implies being alone with one's quest. Artists are so misunderstood and not appreciated that many of them suffer personally, unfortunately.

  • I think most of the people going to see Black Swan realize that this isn't what the dance world is actually like. There are some parallels between the movie and the dance world--like you said, you can take any plausible situation and turn it into the extreme. Yes, some dancers are obsessive and push themselves to the edge, but I think Darren Aronofsky's intention was exaggeration, not only in Portman's disturbing transformation as a demented ballerina, but also in his depiction of the dance world.

    ...and what, you don't have Beiber-fever? :)

  • Hi Frenchy,

    Chimene here. I reluctantly saw this movie a few weeks ago versus waiting for the DVD, and I have to say that I enjoyed it. Some parts were corny, some funny and others a pleasant surprise. I come from the perspective that most movies are mediocre to poor so when a particular character(s) or scene(s) keeps me interested in what's happening, I'm happy. It is certainly not the best film I've ever seen nor the worst. I just allowed myself to roll with the good and overlook the not so good. I was impressed with Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and the crazy mother, Barbara Hershey. I didn't think the artistic director was all that bad either, plus he's French.

    I am a fan of the concentration and skill involved in the acting craft, which has almost nothing to do with the plot or storyline. For me, if the actor sells it right, I'll buy it but, of course, it's all subjective. I totally love(d) "ER","Grey's Anatomy,""Private Practice," and the like even though my 22 years of experience working as either a military medic, CNA, RN, and/or medical student have significantly paled in comparison. I can only dream of working w/a bunch of studly, attractive and oversexed doctors or with all the ridiculous drama. My world mostly consists of sick, demented, or drug-seeking people, stressed-out staff, the occasional crazy narcissistic doctor and lots of different body fluids and bad smells.

    Peace out,

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