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.