Nina Sayers is a ballerina in the New York Ballet. She lives with her mother, and her whole live revolves around dancing. There is a new production starting and Nina is determined to get a starring role in Swan Lake. So she sets out to impress the producer/director, Thomas, who believes that she is technically perfect. And if he were just casting the White Swan he tells her that she would be perfect, but she doesn’t have the sex appeal to play the Black Swan. She is too controlled, he wants her to let go.
This is a visually stunning film, with some wonderful performances. Portman is excellent as Nina, but all around her are wonderful actors doing justice to all of their roles. Even those with the smallest of parts to play are convincing.
However it is not the easiest film to watch. Psychologically it is an intense film, and there is even some moments that are not for the more squeamish. And a surprising amount of cgi.
In many ways it is over the top, there is nothing subtle about the use of reflections, or colour. It is a melodrama, but, I think that that is intentional. I’ve never been to the ballet, but I’d guess that it is overly dramatic on purpose. Likewise, this is a heightened version of reality. Creating a wonderfully intense film.
One gripe I do have about this film is the fact that so much of it centres on the sexuality, or lack thereof, in its protagonist. This only seems to happen to such an extent in films about female characters. I mean, can’t you have a female character who doesn’t have such huge hang-ups about sex while still having problems? I know that in this film it is all about the ultra-controlled life of Nina. How she has been cosseted and isolated from growing up by her mother, there are a lot of issues between mother and daughter that are a lot more subtlety handled, or possibly even merely hinted at. In a way they could have been investigated a little more.
But is a film all about obsession, and Nina’s obsession is her performance as the Swan Queen. That is everything to her, and everything else suffers. Actually suffering is a good description of this film. Nina suffers throughout the film. And she looks like she is too. It’d put you off ballet to be honest.
It is a great film though, maybe one you wouldn’t switch on for some easy viewing, but at the same time sometimes that is exactly what you want.