Whatever I was expecting when I settled into my seat to watch Black Swan, it wasn’t that. I watched it on the plane trip home from Ireland, a 7-hr-plus affair that I wanted to take my mind off of. And of course, the solution was movies.
As I mentioned in my review of Silver Linings Playbook, it’s fun and interesting to watch a movie without really knowing what it’s about. I vaguely knew – or thought I did – the story of Black Swan: a driven ballerina who pushes herself too far. And it is about that.
What I didn’t know is how dark the movie really is, or how beautifully shot, or how intense it gets. I didn’t know the viewer would be dragged into uncertainty and insanity along with Nina (played by Natalie Portman).
Summary: Natalie Portman plays the main character, a young woman whose delicate mental state is made clear early on. Nina’s drive for perfectionism in her ballet practice is egged on by her mother and the competition-based ballet school she attends. An important role, that of the Black Swan, will be awarded to a student soon when Lily (Mila Kunis) arrives to the school as a transfer student. As Nina’s obsession with the role grows, she defies her mother and becomes friends with Lily. When she starts hallucinating, having pushed herself to the end of her limits, the line between inner and outer realities is blurred.
Black Swan is beautifully shot. I’ll probably watch it again sometime, so I get the chance to see it on a screen larger than one built into the back of an airplane seat. It features dancers and includes gorgeous dance sequences, and it plays with light and sound the entire 108 minutes. It is also dark and dangerous and startling. I actually jumped and squealed at one point, unable to keep it in even though I was on an airplane surrounded by people. And I squirmed in my seat during the unexpectedly graphic sexual content, all too aware of my surroundings. But I watched, enraptured, through the entire thing.
It reminded me of A Beautiful Mind, because as the protagonist moves into insanity, the audience is dragged unknowingly along for the ride. It’s not until later that you realize perhaps not all is as it seems.
Maybe that’s the best description of Black Swan. It’s a dance movie, sure. But it’s just a dance movie. Not all is as it seems.