Black Swan is just as much about a woman dancing in Swan Lake as it is a modern retelling of the story. Nina Sayers starts off as the perfect Swan Queen, pure, innocent and sweet. The film sees Nina (Natalie Portman) preparing for the performance of Swan Lake, as she takes on the role of the White Swan she seems to be becoming more and more like her evil twin, the Black Swan. This film encapsulates the essence of Tchaikovsky’s original ballet, playing with the lines between good and evil and displaying the conflict and delusions of the protagonist.
Nina begins as a young ballerina who is hoping to receive a larger role in this season of the New York City Ballet as she is a perfectionist who couldn’t work harder at her art form. She lives at home with her over-protective mother, a former dancer herself who invades into Nina’s life. Thomas Leroy, the head of the dance company, is hesitant to select Nina as the Swan Queen in the company’s new production of Swan Lake. This is because Thomas does not believe that Nina has the passion and emotion to portray both the White and the Black Swans.
Then another dancer from San Francisco joins the company, Lily (Mila Kunis). She seems to be everything Nina is not, outgoing, bold and open about herself. Lily’s presence puts pressure on Nina, as well as the pressure of the role itself, of her mother and of the other dancers who wanted to be the Swan Queen and claim Nina slept with Thomas to get the part. Nina begins to hallucinate and slowly loses her mind with all of the emotional and physical stress she has on her.
Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) directs the film with an absurd quality that makes it great. Black Swan is incredibly tense, with emotion being explored deeply. Aronofsky also explores the themes of sexuality and violence in a way that disorients the audience and almost makes people question their own sanity. Overall, Black Swan is a terrific film which delves deeper than most thrillers, exploring the psychological cause and effects of actions, as well as displaying the art of ballet and the stress associated with a role with almost perfection.