The only word that I could utter after the final scene. Wow. I had to repeat it several times to emphasise just how great Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" was. Most of the audience were silenced and paralysed... transfixed if you will, by the spectacle that had just unravelled before them.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
For those who don't know (or didn't quite understand the film's trailer, "Black Swan" revolves around Nina (Natalie Portman), a young, dedicated ballerina who is chosen to play the part of Swan Queen, taking over from former dancer, Beth (Winona Ryder). Nina embodies the perfect White swan, which symbolises innocence and grace, whereas newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) embodies the perfect Black swan, symbolising sensuality and lust. As the movie progresses, the viewer begins to question Nina's sanity and realises just how far she will push herself to become perfect...
Trying to place this film in a specific genre is near enough impossible, it's a drama/psychological thriller/horror. It's a horror, does that mean it's scary? No. But you fear for Nina. You fear for her sanity because she is a genuinely sweet girl. From the very first few scenes, you see her sticking up for fellow dancers, standing up to their needless bitching and telling them that she thinks that she is a beautiful dancer, you see that her and her mother have a caring relationship and that Nina is her mothers "Sweet girl", Nina even shows childlike characteristics (She owned LOTS of teddy bears and had a very innocent looking music box of a ballerina). To see this character essentially breaking down was heartbreaking, but captivating to watch. However, this breakdown was a necessary part of her character development, we see how obsessed she is with the ever elusive idea of "perfection". She wants to play the perfect Swan Queen so she needs to leave her comfort zone and become sexually driven.
Natalie Portman's acting was fantastic, she fully deserved that Golden Globe. She plays the part of the obsessed, paranoid ballerina with great skill and dedication, she lost 20 pounds for the role! It doesn't even feel like she's acting... it's just as if Aronofsky has followed her around and began to record her life, she's that good.
Aronofsky's directing was flawless. I can't even pick out a select few scenes in all honesty... I suppose I have to give him credit for executing the lesbian sex scene with some class. Look at Lily's back tattoo during this scene, it is of a pair of black wings (She is the black swan in this film afterall) and they move in such a way, they remind you of the rhythmical movements of ballet. Scene where Nina's mother (Highlight to reveal text, it could be considered a spoiler) Cuts her fingernails in an attempt to stop Nina from scratching herself. Yes. Nina self harms. It's an upsetting scene to watch. It's one of the first scenes where the viewer truley begins to doubt Nina's sanity and we see a mother's love and concern for her daughter. Anyone can see that she loves her, she's just not amazing at showing this to her.
Onto mirrors. I'm sure anyone that has seen this movie can tell you that the majority of scenes are not of the actor or actress in front of the camera, but rather their reflection in a mirror. This is important for two reasons:
One: Shows the vanity and the immense pressure that dancers such as ballerina's are in to look beautiful. Nina appears in mirrors... a lot. This could also suggest that she scrutinises herself a lot, and is a perfectionist (This is reinforced in the ending...)
Two: It foreshadows what happens in the ending. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, Highlight to read - Nina stabs Lily with a piece of broken mirror, killing her. Turns out, she didn't stab Lily, she stabbed herself. Vanity, literally, killed her.
Speaking of the ending. Wow. It bowled me over. I have been so excited for this film ever since I knew of it's existence, so it's safe to say, expectations were high. I didn't know what to expect, but I expected high quality. Well, the ending ensured that this film surpassed all expectations. It's beautiful in a tragic way.
Barbara Hershey (actress who played Nina's mother) deserved a nomination for Best Supporting actress for sure, you can tell that Nina's mother suffers from some sort of mental disorder (unsure what, but she gets incredibly agitated when Nina says that she can't eat the cake that she bought her and almost throws the whole thing in the bin...) and she alternates between a caring mother to an obsessed woman with ease.
One thing that infuriates me about this is that I didn't have a clue what had just happened when the credits started to run. The ending takes everything that has occurred during the course of the movie and puts it into question. It's one of those movies. A 2011 version of Shutter Island, Inception, Fight club and The Usual Suspects if you will, it's a film that makes you go woaaah.
And, as said previously, the film received the greatest compliment that an audience can pay to a director and film... silence.