Monday, February 28, 2011

Black Swan


Scratch deeper down the surface and you realize that more than just a movie about ballet, Black Swan, after all, is a psychological thriller rendered beautifully onscreen as a fine example of Man versus Himself. As an ambitious ballerina crumbling under the pressure of a make-or-break performance, Natalie Portman gives a technical yet riveting performance as Nina Sayers and drags you with her on her quest for twisted perfection as she delves deeper into finding her inner black swan. The film itself tackles the process of personal transformation, aided with convenience by the parallel dilemma of a ballerina tasked to do the dual role of the fragile White Swan and the feisty Black Swan in any production of Swan Lake.

The second half of the movie is undeniably where the fun is, and this is not even about the lesbo scene. This is the part where the main character’s delusions get in the way of her perception of reality. And since you, as part of the audience, see the movie though her point of view, neither could you tell what is real and what is not, leading to one surreal experience that could be headache inducing if you let it be. Other sources of inconvenience are the shaky camera shots and some extreme close-ups. Although bothersome at times, it actually helps establish an overall feel for the movie, effectively reflecting the main character’s disturbed psyche, which in turn helps you identify with her more. In effect, the director is giving you a visual piece of her f*cked-up mind.

The combination of grotesque imagery and killer score makes it a good suspense thriller despite the weakness of the story. The film drags a bit early on but eventually reaches its climax with the much awaited transformation scene, which is transformation in every sense of the word. Portman’s Black Swan is just so engrossing and truly convincing that you still get shivers down your spine after that particular scene is over. The parallelisms in terms of plot of the movie and the movie-within-the-movie converge conveniently, giving a sort of anti-climactic albeit poetic ending.

As for Portman’s ballet skills, suffice it to say that she is an actress, not a ballerina. Her only job is to make you believe that she is doing ballet. Given the superb editing and the high probability that people who are going to see this would neither even know nor care about the difference between a plié and a chassé, there is reason to believe that this argument is moot. That is unless you are involved in ballet and you would like to correct some notions brought about by this film about your craft. But then again, this is more than just a ballet movie. And more than a ballerina, the main character is actually a human being with serious issues, something Portman has been able to portray well beyond expectations. One can even go as far as to say that ballet is just used here as a front since one can experience the same thing not only in the performing arts, but also in different fields where competition is inevitable. If you want a ballet movie to pan, go watch Center Stage.

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