Sunday, November 17, 2013

Black Swan

We finally got around to watching Black Swan (2010, dir Darren Aronofsky) last night and whilst it was riveting in places, I feel that this film was overly hyped and misses it mark.

I will avoid recounting the details of the plot as the synopsis can be found easily elsewhere but my thoughts below do contain spoilers so please beware if you have not seen the movie….

What worked

  • Use of the mirrors and the black and white (although these devices were used too much!)
  • Portman - weirdly – looks different from certain angles so it was hard to recognize her imagined doppelganger. This added some intrigue but was possibly accidental
  • Wasn’t sure at first if Hershey is Portman’s mother or lover – a good initial indication of the unnaturally intimate relationship they have
  • I was starting to disbelieve that Portman could really act but when she changes towards the end of the film it was quite powerful.
  • There is lots of suspense and mystery around what is real and what is not – wasn’t sure how everything would end (even though there were lots of predictable moments on the way)
  • Portman did look like a ballet dancer. This movie is not for the squeamish. We are repeatedly shown how grueling this lifestyle is for the body of a dancer
  • Mila Kunis is fab in it – very sexy and dripping with confidence. Very convincing and well cast for the role
  • The claustrophobia of the apartment where Nina lives with her stifling mother and lots of good mise-en-scene generally
  • I kind of liked the feathers growing out of the scratches on her back and this was well-filmed
  • I also liked her growing full feathers at the end of the black swan performance - nicely delivered
  • Good ending – open for the viewer’s own interpretation 

What didn’t work

  • She was already unhinged at the beginning so our only journey with her was a further descent into madness – I found this to be unsatisfying
  • I was utterly unconvinced that Nina (Portman) would have been offered the role as the prima (just because she bites Leroy’s lip when he kisses her against her will?)
  • Far too many clich├ęs for my taste – black/white; the prudish girl is tempted by lesbian sex; the overbearing mother who gave up her career to have a baby; the sexually predatory head of the ballet company; the washed-up star (Winona Ryder) gets drunk, has a meltdown and then tries to kill herself blah blah etc
  • Portman was so simpering and pathetic for so much of the movie it became boring at times – her character could have been much more subtle
  • I don’t think this film revealed anything about the world of professional ballet that we didn’t already know – it is brutally hard, there is lots of rivalry and back-stabbing and you get retired early.  Big deal.
  • Surely the understudy (“alternate”) would not have been chosen so late on the process?
  • The webbed feet was a step too far
  • She doesn’t ever reveal an actual dark side - she just goes madder

Mise-en-scene analysis

  • Pink bedroom with toys – shows childishness
  • Mother dresses in black – mourning her lost career and being slightly evil?
  • Creepy paintings in her mother’s studio
  • Butterfly wallpaper – signifies an impending transformation?
  • Extensive use of mirrors – self-reflection/obsession and seeing different sides of people
  • Portman mostly in white
  • Kunis in black – lends a black top to the protagonist when they are out at a bar being bad
  • Breeze-block walls and long grey corridors to convey the harsh, unforgiving nature of the environment
  • Canted and high angle shots to show vulnerability
  • Lots of tracking shots and rapid cutting to create empathy and suspense

In conclusion: I definitely preferred The Wrestler!

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