hazyshade: (Red Shoes: Art is life - by me)
hazyshade ([personal profile] hazyshade) wrote on January 9th, 2011 at 10:46 pm
Black Swan
People who have seen my icon and recognise the film it's from (The Red Shoes, 1948) will probably guess that I've been eager to see Black Swan for a while now. I couldn't wait for an official UK release, either... LOL.

I enjoyed it (if that's the right word for such a dark beauty of a film), and a good sign for a movie is that I'm still thinking about it a day later. I'm spoilt by my love of The Red Shoes, and Black Swan is in many ways a retelling of that seminal Powell & Pressburger film. There is the same mirroring of the role and the ballerina who feels too much in order to achieve perfection in their dance. There is the sacrifice of personal life for art. There is the eventual suicide of the lead as her perfect performance ends.

Natalie Portman was great and utterly believable as the vulnerable ballerina. I'm not at all surprised to learn she had problems with descending too deeply into the darkness of the part. Because Nina is withdrawn, much of the acting comes from looks and posture and it's riveting to watch. Mila Kunis didn't particularly scream ballerina to me, but I enjoyed her character within the story. The rival ballerina is what The Red Shoes was missing, since it substituted this type of conflict for the traditional love triangle (even if this acted as a metaphor for love vs art). Nina projects her darkest fears and desires onto Lily and the result is delicious psychological and hallucinogenic drama. In essence she wants to (literally) peel away her constricted self and become the free and open Lily.

Ballet as a form seems to fit the 'outwardly beautiful but inwardly painful' motif particularly well. The direction, colours, photography and lighting in Black Swan all emphasise the fragile, pale, bony beauty of Nina and the others. I am really squeamish about nails being ripped off and so on, so I had to close my eyes at all those bits, but they were effective at highlighting Nina's attempts to escape herself.

In the end, I still prefer The Red Shoes (not least because it has more ballet in it) but it's really interesting to have Black Swan as a 21st century update and comparison.

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