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:: Black Swan

It’s not hard to imagine a series of collective sighs when some film-goers hear that there is a new film out that centres around the world of ballet. Although, the disappointed may gain a little interest when they learn that Black Swan is directed by Darren Aronofsky – the man behind classic films such as The Wrestler and Requiem For A Dream. However, it is guaranteed the disappointment will leave completely after just one viewing of the film… this twisted thriller is destined to become a classic.

Black Swan manages to tell the classic tale of Swan Lake within the cast of a ballet company putting on… you guessed it – Swan Lake. With the popularity of ballet falling away, the company’s director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to make some harsh decisions. Firstly, he decides to produce and direct a radically new version of Swan Lake and then decides to fire the company’s aging prima-ballerina, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) and replace her with (the soon clearly) disturbed, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman). Tormented from years under the thumb of her over-bearing mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), Nina takes the role of The Swan Queen far too seriously and soon becomes obsessed with Thomas and is convinced that company newcomer, Lily (Mila Kunis) is ‘out to get her’.

Everywhere you look in Black Swan there is brilliance. The film is a certainty to scoop the Oscars for best costume and possibly best music score while the brilliant script creates a story so intense that even the most hardened ballet-hater will be labelling this a work of art. Early on the film appears to be heading down the same track of previous films such as Centre Stage but with a few twists and turns it soon becomes a psychological thriller that is guaranteed to shock some cinema goers. The story really picks up when Nina’s world becomes laced with drugs, lesbian sex and acts of violence.

It soon becomes clear that Aronofsky was the right man for the job, because it feels that a lesser director could easily have lost control of this film, a shame considering how good the script is. Aronofsky proved with The Wrestler that he knows how to direct a character-driven film and once again here with Black Swan that skill comes to the fore along with some brilliant imaginary that only makes this thriller even darker.

There is certainly no way you could call any of the characters in this film one-dimensional. The screenwriters, along with the help of Aronofsky and actress, Barbara Hershey even manage to make an over-bearing mother (which is normally done as a cliché) so scary that she equals Nurse Ratched. There is no way anyone who sees Black Swan will be able to look at members of ballet groups the same way again.

But Hershey is just one of the many members of the cast that put in sensational efforts. Winona Ryder manages to remind the world just how good she is (despite limited screen time) and Mila Kunis continues her rise. While Book Of Eli showed us all how talented she was, she takes her acting to a new level again with Black Swan… she’s no longer just “the chick from That 70’s Show”, at this rate she’ll have an Oscar on her shelf in no time.

But the star here is of course Natalie Portman. Portman puts in the performance of her life in a role that would be seriously challenging for any actress. Even pushing the ballet sequences aside, this is a demanding role… but still a role that Portman pulls over with excellence. Whether it be an intense scene with co-star Vincent Cassel or Barbara Hershey or an intimate scene with Kunis, Portman just keeps on impressing.

Come Oscar time it’s not hard to imagine Black Swan doing very well indeed. It’s possible that it will score for script, music, costume and design, while Natalie Portman must be a serious contender for Best Actress. Mila Kunis may even manage to steal some votes away from other contenders for Best Supporting Actress. Awards aside though, Black Swan is one of the most twisted thrillers to surface in a long time and is a stark reminder that not all thrillers have to stoop to B-Grade level. A visually stunning film that keeps its audience constantly guessing. Guaranteed to become a classic.