I'm trying to figure out to how to review/sum up this movie, but I can't get past frantic arm waving while stuttering "it's...it's like...like (gesticulates frantically)"
It's amazing. And terrifying. And positively overwrought with tension, and doubling, and Tchaikovsky, and grandiose mental breakdowns and also being deeply afraid of all the principal cast members. I'm still not doing a good job with this, am I?
Ok, how about a visual representation? I went and saw Black Swan with the bff Jon and the former roomie Arlene. We began the film like this:
and ended it like this:
Black Swan is the best movie I have ever watched while peeking out from behind my knees.
We follow Nina, played by Natalie Portman, a intensely pressured and fragile ballerina that will only continue to be more those two things as the plot progresses. Her mom, played Barbara Hershey, is a former ballerina who never hit it big and consequently lives through her daughter, putting the "mother" in smother. She controls every aspect of her daughter's life, even dressing and undressing her, putting her to bed and keeping her in a room that looks like it belongs to a twelve year old girl. It's creepy.
"I'm your mother and I only want what's best for you. And by you I mean me. And by best I mean do what I tell you to or I will murder you in your sleep"
So Nina gets the lead in Swan Lake after being pseudo-molested by the director, Thomas, played with douchey intensity by Vincent Cassel. He keeps telling her that she's a rad white swan-fearful, frigid, pure and controlled; but a lousy black swan-confident, sexual, and utterly fearless. He tries to help her get in touch with her inner black swan by way of continued attempted rape:
Finally, there's Mila Kunis's character, Lily, the newest member of the ballet company and the only one who doesn't seem to be a backstabbing bitchface. She seems to try to befriend Nina, but maybe she's trying to sabotage her, or maybe Nina's paranoid, or maybe they have menacing lesbian sex (seriously, it's the scariest non-graphic lesbian sex scene ever) or maybe they didn't. It gets hard to tell what's real and what's a hallucination brought on by a complete psychotic break on behalf of Nina, who may or may not be sprouting wings, having her toes fuse together and murdering other ballerinas. Maybe.
Why the movie is amazing: It is incredible psychological horror with jump-scares that are scary not just because they take you by surprise but because of what they imply. The music, which Clint Mansell made by taking sections of Swan Lake, playing it backwards and distorting it, is scary. The lack of music is scary. Winona Ryder motionless in a wheelchair is scary. Winona Ryder stabbing herself in the face is...much scarier actually, but you get the idea. There wasn't a moment when I wasn't on the edge of my seat from the tension.
Other things: The costumes are brilliant, the dancing is breathtaking, the cinematography is inspired, all claustrophobic, cramped shots, dizzying during the dancing scenes. What Aronofsky does with mirrors is better than anything I have ever seen done with mirrors. This movie is a trial, it is an exhausting experience that will leave you at a loss for words. In an echo of a pivotal line from the movie: It's perfect.
Black Swan en pointes it's way to five catapults out of five.
This is Sugary Cynic, afraid that there's a Black Swan hiding in my closet, or worse, Vincent Cassel. 'Night!
Thomas: "The only person standing in your way is you"