If you are familiar with the work of director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) then you know he can be a little, well, unconventional. His rare combination of artistry and intelligence can really throw audiences for a loop. Here, however, Aronofsky achieves the incredible: He walks a perfect tightrope between a gripping and suspenseful story line and an almost visual surrealism.
The New York City Ballet is retiring aging ingenue, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), and young Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is looking to step in as star of Swan Lake. The company director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) tells Nina if the lead role were simply the ballet’s virginal White Swan, he would cast her in a heartbeat. But the lead must also dance the Black Swan, the temptress, and he doesn’t believe Nina is capable. After she shows some fire when spurning Thomas’ advances, he reconsiders and Nina wins the role.
From there things take a very dark turn. Nina is battling her own personal black swan, and this alter ego is paranoid and self destructive. Nina’s fears are directed at the newest ballerina in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), who Nina believes is after her role. The stress of dancing the role combined with the strains in her personal life, including a wildly dysfunctional relationship with her mother (Barbara Hershey), set Nina off on a terrifying downward spiral.
There are some pretty gruesome images, so this movie is not for the faint of heart. If your little daughter takes ballet at Miss Suzie’s Academy of Dance and you’re considering taking her to this movie about real ballerinas, DO NOT! This movie is violent, sexual and profoundly disturbing. It is also one of the most powerful, gripping and visually stunning films I have seen in years. LN