(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Black Swan (2010)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Nina is a perfectionist and has to please a toxic masculine director, but she slowly transforms into the black swan…figuratively and maybe literally?
Why It’s on the List: There were a couple of contenders from Darren Aronofsky’s filmography that could have made this list, but The Wrestler has too much personal baggage for ne to write about at this point. He once classified this as a psychological horror film, and it’s hard to disagree with him. There are a lot of gross images of body horror. The horror is just in the normal wear and tear of a ballet’s body for the most part. Maybe it’s the years of hindsight and 2020, but Natalie Portman seems exhausted from the moment the movie starts and only gets more exhausted as she struggles to deal with her mom, an awful predator of a director, and Lily.
I haven’t really rewatched this movie a lot since it came out, but I remember being transfixed by it in theaters, not for the pervy reasons, but because it’s so different from anything else Portman had starred in and because it introduced me into a world I was never familiar with. Ballet is not something I have a great deal of interest in, but Aronofsky does a great job showing the dances without getting too technical. A lot of the focus here is on Portman’s Nina. She is our gateway into this world and the lens we see almost everything. The plot is fairly basic. Out concentration is on the visual elements and exploring Nina as a character. I like the fact that this movie isn’t consumed by a plot and very female centric. There are some elements that ultimately don’t totally work, especially in a post “Me Too” era, but I think this is one of the more interesting character studies I’ve ever seen.
There is a lot of discussion to be had about the ending, as there is with a lot of Aronofsky’s work. It’s impressive to see the crescendo and the many interpretations. I’ve always believed Nina dies after that first performance because it’s such a natural conclusion. I base this off what the actual ballet is about and experience from watching The Wrestler.
*I would love to see this movie as directed by a female director because the constant cattiness and even the infamous taxi cab scene feels male gazy.
*Darren Aronofsky must have some serious mother issues based on this and other movies in his filmography.
MVP: and Best Performance: I mean, this is a movie that seems designed to get Natalie Portman an Academy Award as she is in nearly every frame. There is a clear physical transformation throughout and she has to play such a complicated role. We have to see her as the women trying to be too perfect. She slowly morphs into the type of person who could potentially be a black swan. I’m a huge fan of Natalie Portman’s work, and because she’s careful about the projects she partakes in, I’d argue she’s a must see performer. Portman also seemed to play an unofficial godmother for this movie with her own sacrifices. Her commitment probably is what made it so successful as she began training even before the film started shooting. She also made sacrifices on-set so this could get made.
Although not exactly in the same league, I really also appreciate Mila Kunis as well and am sad she hasn’t been able to get roles in smaller movies such as this. It’s easy to see her as a 90s sitcom actor or the voice of Meg, but boxing someone in the era of peak television is absurd.
Best Quote: “It’s about a girl who gets turned into a swan and she needs love to break the spell, but her prince falls for the wrong girl so she kills herself.” – Nina (Not the most quotable movie of all-time but that’s not the point)
Is there a sequel? No.
Check out Ben & Matt’s podcast review of this movie from There Will Be Movies.