Saturday, April 09, 2011

The darkness within

Once in a while comes a movie which not only thrills but terrifies to the core. Leaves the viewer entrapped in a dark and murky world, desperately seeking out an escape into the bright summer day outside the confines of a room or a claustrophobic theater so as to get a re-assurance of the fact that the nightmare is only in reel. Not real.
Black Swan is one such cinematic experience. It's raw, it's life-threatening, it's spell-binding, it's visceral.

Plot: Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a promising young ballet dancer, waiting in the wings for her big break in a prestigious New York City ballet production company. Her life pretty much revolves around ballet, the production company and her overbearing mother, a failed ballerina. She is an obedient daughter and that quintessentially 'clean' girl, obsessed with perfection. So when 'Beth' (Winona Ryder) the age-ing star performer of the company is ditched in favour of Nina as the lead for Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, it's easy for her to fit into the shoes of the White Swan, a symbol of virginal innocence and beauty. But she falters while trying to portray her darkly sensuous, evil twin the Black Swan. Enter Lily (Mila Kunis), another trainee, who shows promise as a prospective choice for the role of the Black Swan. And Nina's world slowly begins to turn upside down as she starts to harbor insecurities about Lily trying to grab the coveted role.

Being relentlessly criticized by the director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) for her 'frigid' dancing and inability to connect with the Black Swan's persona, Nina gradually begins to shun her acute sense of self-restraint. And as she delves into a darker side of her psyche that she didn't even know existed, things start spiraling out of control. Until she can no longer discern reality from her own delusions.

Black Swan is an eerily surreal experience. In my humble opinion as a lover of quality cinema, this movie deserved an Academy Award for Best Picture as much as The King's Speech or The Social Network did. But given the obsolete ideologies of the Oscar jury and the fact that Black Swan doesn't so much as tread on the delicate ground of subtlety to cloak its very raw emotions, it's not hard to guess why it never had a chance to begin with. (I'm referring to the much-hyped scenes of lesbian sex, yes)

With respect to the main plot and the story, this movie doesn't exactly have something new to offer. It's the execution, the deft camerawork and the haunting background score that set it apart from films of the same genre. It leaves you shaken with a lingering feeling of being stalked by your own shadow. Or even worse....a doppelganger. And craving for an immediate antidote to counter the darkness. Such is the amazing genius with which Darren Aronofsky has crafted this masterpiece. You can love it or hate it. But you just can't deny the effect it has on you.
Coming to the actors, Vincent Cassel, does justice to his small but significant part as the prickly Thomas who pushes Nina to the edge. Mila Kunis plays the role of the feisty Lily with panache, giving fitting support to Portman, who has truly delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. The way her facial muscles contort with fear or anguish or the way her voice quivers with anticipation or inherent shyness does more than enough to convey her vulnerability as Nina. Only she could've made Nina seem so compliant and helpless in the face of madness which threatens to engulf her very existence.
The fact that Portman trained hard in ballet for months is quite obvious from the ballet sequences which have been meticulously shot to make them appear believable.
Although I can't help but make one passing observation about Portman - at 28, she looks like she could pass off for 35.....or maybe it's the make-up or her sickly thin appearance.

To conclude, I'd like to say that if you're an aspiring ballerina or wannabe actor, keep a safe distance from this movie. It's not exactly a good idea to know that a mere role can detach one from reality so completely that it may lead to one's ultimate destruction.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. No less.

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31 comments:

Ninu said...

i saw the movie too....n to b frank, i dint understand anythin... hehehe.. :)

Anish said...

It's not without a reason that Aronfosky has a rabid cult following.The man is a genius-simple as that.All 5 of his movies-Pi,Fountain,Requiem for a dream,The Wrestler and now Black Swan are absolutely mindblowing.He uses the cinematic elements like background music,cinematography to great effect here.Like you said it's visceral.The explicit scenes were very tastefully shot.And hats off to Natalie-what a performance!The last!The climax was one of the best I have seen.And this movie messes with your mind.I was scared as hell while watching it at 1 o'clock at night.And Mila is hawtt!!! :D As for King's Speech it was equally good.So no complaints that it won.Social Network was the best of last year though.Sorry for writing my own blog post here btw. :D

Neha said...

like I said earlier, I found the movie to be overrated! it's nice, but just about nice..

TurbulentMind said...

I loved the movie, absolutely. I watched it late at night as well. I remember finishing it and almost hearing my bones creak, I had sat so still throughout the movie. I was lucky to have found somebody in the washroom of my hostel who broke the semi-trance like state. Brilliant..eerie too. But brilliant nevertheless.

Defiant Princess said...

After reading your review, i think i'm going to watch the movie soon.

:)

Samadrita said...

@Ninu: :D it wasn't that hard to understand was it? But anyway it's a great watch and everyone should watch it.

@Anish: Don't worry it's totally alright to write your blog post here. Just goes to show how much you loved the movie. :) Even I did. I'll be watching Aronofsky's other movies one by one. :)

@Neha: Too bad you didn't like it that much. But I guess choices differ from person to person. So it's okay :)

@Turbulent Mind: That's the exact feeling I had. Couldn't shift my position much while watching the movie. At 1:30 a.m at night I needed a dose of mushy happiness or some fluffy light-hearted stuff after this movie ended. I kinda wished it was daytime all of a sudden.

@Defiant Princess: Do watch. It shouldn't be given a miss.

Prateek said...

Note made of "Must be watched"

Being Pramoda... said...

I didnt watch the movie..thanks for info dear..:)

PS: wats up with you?.. have nice time

Nethra said...

It sounds like a movie that I would definitely like. By the way, that was a very good review. It made me want to watch the movie even more (I wanted to watch it already after I read vamsi's tweet about how your review inspired him to watch the movie). :)

Shakti_Shetty said...

Quite.

This movie is pure cinema. Aronofsky is a genius and he just can't hide it. Portman was at her thespian best!

Yes, for many, Black Swan was plain crazy (to say the least) but then they are missing something there.

Keep writing. :)

D2 said...

Black Swan is definitely one of the best cinematic experiences I've had till date. What you've written just about sums it up for what the movie's all about. It was an amazing movie.
However, The King's Speech was equally good, though not similarly enthralling. It was a different kind of movie. I don't think 'The Social Network' was an Oscar winner that didn't win.

Vamsi said...

The movies totally justifies everything that you've mentioned here. I agree with every word you've mentioned here. It is a brilliant piece of work. Thanks to you, I totally loved the experience of traveling deep into the psyche of a person and exploring the depths of the darkness hidden within!

Purba said...

That movie sent a chill through my heart - the strange ways in which our mind works and how easily it can destroy you.

I don't care much about the Sarah White controversy - Natalie Portman was simply brilliant in the movie.

Alka Gurha said...

Will watch it soon...

Unruly Rebel said...

hmmm nice review, i never liked the muvi but still i find few things in it beautiful...again i must say review bit partial... :)

Unruly Rebel
something THEY call life

taio said...

buena pelicula

♥ Poulomi ♥ said...

I loved your review. And after reading it.. went to watch the film. And sure enough, it was a film not to be missed.
Keep up the good writing (:
xoxo

Harish said...

Did not watch it as I am not much of a dance flick fan. but your review makes me feel there is much more in it. May be I should go for this one.

Vivek Chamoli said...

Have to watch the movie 1st ..will read this review on it later...
as whole story gets ...in mind and the urge to watch gets dim a bit.

BTW I watched the Movie "Ghost writer" and I loved it.

Samadrita said...

@Prateek: :)

@Pramoda: I'm fine. Thank you :)

@Nethra: Watch it Nethra. It's a priceless experience. :)

@Shakti Shetty: It sure is.

@D2: Actually The Social Network was a gritty film throughout. The plot may have been simple but the way it was conceptualized, David Fincher's deft direction and fab performances by the entire cast breathed life into the story of Mark Zuckerberg's transformation into the world's youngest billionaire. The King's Speech was inspiring in it's own way. Great film.

Samadrita said...

@Vamsi: I know. It's a simply amazing movie.

@Purba di: Sarah White controversy? ooh *goes to google*

@Alka: Sure. Do watch.

@Unruly rebel: I wish I had any flaw to point out in the movie. Since I don't I'd say review not partial in my opinion. I felt the experience was sheer cinematic bliss.

@taio: English please!

Samadrita said...

@Poulomi: I'm so glad to know that so many people watched the movie after going through this review. Makes me feel good about my writing. :D

@Harish: Lol it's not a dance flick. It's a psychological thriller. Ballet just provides the backdrop for the development of the story. It was nominated for several Oscars too.

@Vivek: Sure thing. Watch the movie first.

♫ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ♫ ayu ♫ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ♫ said...

OMG.if sammy has given this a 5 out of 5 then it's a must watch!!!!!!!!!

Sach! said...

Yep saw the movie and it is awesome! I wonder how could she be so natural in her acting. Left me terrified though :)

Giribala said...

Good observations, Sammy :-)

Vivek Chamoli said...

I watched it finally now..nice movie I would give it 4 out 5 everything within the movie was perfect just when she has fight before the performance didn't settles in the mind .. was that necessary.

Then I watched Ghost writer once more there was some kind of connect I relate in both ...
Have you watched it..?

Samadrita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samadrita said...

@ayu: It is a must-watch even without this review. :-)

@Sach!: That's the exact effect it had on me.

@GB: Gee thanks. :D

@Vivek: I don't get which part you're referring to.

Ahimaaz Rajesh said...

Nice review. This I wouldn't have said had I not noticed you're a Japanophile that Aronofsky is a fan of Satoshi Kon whose film Perfect Blue the former bought the rights for just to reshoot a scene for his Requiem for a Dream. I hope you've viewed Kon's Paprika and Millenium Actress which are indispensable whether or not one likes animie filmmaking.

Enchanta said...

Oddly enough, I connected with the movie :P
By the way, I have been going through your posts lately and am appalled by what I have been missing!

Enchanta said...

Delete this comment.. this was just to get follow-ups

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