The Black Swan Not as Bad as “Billed”

Posted on January 22, 2011


For those of you who cling to reviews – book, play, art show, whatever – you will miss a lot of life if you are guided by others.  You may indeed hit a” B” instead of an “A” movie but there is a lot in a”B” or even in a “C” movie that pushes the art  and the practitioner of it forward.  Some small part may be incorporated in a much more successful film and  you will have missed the initial stage in development.

You may have been put off by the kinds of sex played out here but having seen the movie, this is not what you remember.  It is as if it was all something you had to attend to before you were allowed the wonderful release at the end.  Some of it could have been cut or redirected to be sure.

The ballet psycho drama on film is at least as old as Moira Shearer in the 1948 film rendition of The Red Shoes. It is based on a tale by Hans Christian Anderson. 

The shoes are possessed; the dancer possesses the shoes.  Most of the film is on YouTube.

You know Portman IS the black swam when the close up of the eyes reveals a bird staring out at the audience.

In The Black Swan, the dancer is possessed by the role from Swan Lake and when fantasy overtakes reality, becomes the swan itself.  Here is that critical moment where the camera with its closeup capability demonstrates it’s unique vocabulary in storytelling. We meet Portman’s bird stare.  This moment would have to be totally expressed in movement in the ballet.

The focus on the eyes also lets us know that her vision throughout has been unique.

Add to this the faint woosh of wings as her body begins to approximate the animal…

and we are not surprised by the final image of Portman as the swan itself.

After the shot above, the feathers disappear and the fact that Portman has descended into madness is confirmed.   Her mental state has been questionable all along but had been off set by other action that seemed to justify it.

Aside from Portman’s remarkable ability to act and dance at the same moment, the visual power of this film is the star.  The camera tells the story beautifully  in concert  with imaginative lighting, makeup and costuming to master the Gothic .  This is a film you will not forget and that you should not miss.

And in the REAL world,  if you want the kind of sensual black swan the ballet master in the film required, well, here she is:

NOTE:  Here is a clip that will outline the hard work and years of preparation Portman and the director undertook to bring this film to fruition: