Director Darren Aronofsky is an interesting and stylish controller of dramatic portrayals that often co-exist within fantasy and thrills. Black Swan gives us a suitably enjoyable blend of that, and highlights Aronofsky at the peak of his abilities. The Natalie Portman led thriller experiments with the delights of the fantasy thriller hybrid, developing into a very solid display of unexpected twists and demented turns.
Aronofsky’s work here is vaguely similar to that of The Wrestler. Same director, same tried and tested story almost. A career driven character (Rourke/Portman) begins to suffer substantial physical or mental strain (old age/turning into a swan) as they go further down the rabbit hole that will eventually allude to killing them. It’s a fairly solid system to follow, however The Wrestler does this with less characters, more charm and a closer to home story than Black Swan manages.
That’s certainly not a negative, especially since Black Swan combines the thriller genre with the drama vein of films and burrows elements of psychedelic horror in too. It’s a beautifully crafted experiment, with a keen focus on swooshing camera angles that follow Nina (Natalie Portman) and her slow devolution into insanity and a state of near schizophrenia.
My only concern is that, if Aronofsky is trying to say anything with the meaning of this movie, it has bypassed me completely. Nina’s strive for success is ushered out rather quickly, she has reached the top within twenty minutes of the movie as she’s chosen as the leading performer. No, the focus couldn’t be on that as it’s not in depth enough to provide an overarching reading. Maybe there is no reading, but given the iconography and cinematography, you’d like to at least presume there was something behind the frequently mortifying visions that Nina imagines.
The film has a fairly strong supporting cast too. The ever-promising Vincent Cassel gives a remarkable performance, alongside a rare Mila Kunis role that actually works and a barely recognisable Winona Ryder. This trio of supporting characters make for an interesting blend that only worsens the mental state of our protagonist.
Once again, Aronofsky has presented us a formidable and thoroughly enjoyable piece of work that has similar merits to that of The Wrestler. With those similar merits in mind however, it should be noted that it has the similar failings too. An open ended finale, some not so great lines of dialogue and a forgettable first act plague Black Swan and restrain it from being that perfect dramatic thriller.