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Black Swan

Intense Beauty

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Black Swan is the manifestation of all of Darren Aronofsky’s best qualities as a director. His penchant for paranoia and character studies coalesces perfectly into a story as harrowing as it is beautiful. Aronofsky’s dark piece recalls classic Roman Polanski thrillers, especially The Tenant where reality and personality become lost and confused.

A dancer her whole life, Nina Sayers’ (Natalie Portman) company is opening the new season with the classic Swan Lake and is searching for a new Swan Queen after world renowned Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) is more or less shoved aside for younger blood. Still coddled but bullied by her stage mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), she wants to prove to her director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) that she is as much the Black Swan as she is the Swan Queen, as she’s undertaking both parts. It’s Leroy who sees the darkness inside her and urges it to come out.

It’s Portman’s ability to pull off tortured but innocent that creates Nina as such a complex and interesting character. She has the steps but she has yet to put her whole self into it. She soon meets new dancer Lily (Mila Kunis), who she believes may be out to get her, and slowly starts to unravel.

If anyone had doubts about Natalie Portman’s ability to fully transform herself into a character, this is proof. She begins a sweet and innocent girl who begins to toy with a darkness she’s left untapped. While not so much a horror, Aronofsky has you suspended in every scene, just waiting for the coin to drop. Yet it never really does. He takes you in all directions as Portman leads the way.

Vincent Cassel is another asset to the production. His character seems unassuming, but he’s a force felt throughout the film. Barbara Hershey adds similar tones as Portman’s eerily hovering mother. Her complicated relationship is built upon living vicariously through her daughter and simultaneous jealousy of her.

Then there’s Clint Mansell’s score. It’s a character all its own. With Aronofsky since the beginning, Mansell takes you over the edge with strings that swirl then smash. The film throws you into the deep end but pulls you out every so often to show you its true depth. As simple as The Wrestler was, this film is complex. But it’s a subtle complexity that doesn’t drown out its beauty. And that’s all anyone’s looking for — beauty.