Black Swan

 (8,271)
8.01 h 48 min2010X-RayR
HD. Obsession drives a devoted ballerina (Oscar(R) winner Natalie Portman) to the brink of madness in this compelling masterpiece.
Directors
Darren Aronofsky
Starring
Natalie PortmanVincent CasselMila Kunis
Genres
SuspenseDrama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Barbara HersheyWinona Ryder
Producers
Jon AvnetBradley J. FischerScott FranklinJerry FruchtmanPeter FruchtmanRose GarnettAri HandelMike MedavoyArnold Messer
Studio
20th Century Fox
Rating
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Alcohol usefoul languagesexual contentsmokingsubstance useviolence
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

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Depth psychologist-cultural anthropologistReviewed in the United States on June 25, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Reflecting on Black Swan from a depth psychological perspective
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Black Swan asks us to consider whether we—as striving, individuating, and creative beings—should be the object or the subject of our own lives. The implications for going through the deep journey to integrate and heighten both the conscious (White Swan) and unconscious (Black Swan) aspects of ourselves can be devastatingly dangerous if done too quickly. Without a therapist, supportive family, somatic, or spiritual support—when the self is too vulnerable, fragile, stressed from the pressure of competition, and forced to embody a radically new role without adequate psychological preparation—Nina as heroine suffers psychic fracturing. Given the chance to dance the two roles, she is suited only for the white. The black role brings her to the edge of madness and causes her to be possessed by the archetype of the shadow.

A provocative sequence that could be a dream, fantasy, hallucination, magical reality, or altered consciousness opens the film. Nina as White Swan is seen dancing with compelling force, joining with, enveloped by, then trying to escape, a dark human figure that turns into a caped dark figure who increasingly takes her over. We are aware from the outset that the movie is about a white, pure, and innocent heroine’s encounter with the shadow and darkness; whether this dark shadow is within or without her, we still need to discover. The closing scene shows her moment of shining glory; the dying or wounded heroine Nina is lying off-stage, the excited roars of the opening night’s New York City audience are in the background, and surrounded by admiring colleagues; blood is flowing out from the center of her body—perhaps this is from the solar plexus of individuation, control, and power—and we hear her whisper that she is now perfect. Nina’s body is dying or transcending, as if released, encompassed by light, almost ascending to the heavens. It is unclear whether her encounter with the shadow has killed her or whether her death is symbolic.

Most of the film’s female characters live within the restrictive beliefs of body-as-object, whether as authority or victim. The stage-struck codependent mother Erica is the main authority over Nina and her body. Erica had wanted her own ballet career, was stopped at an early age by pregnancy (a mistake implied to occur from an encounter with a ballet director resulting in a child), and now lives vicariously through her ballerina daughter. Erica keeps Nina in thralldom by a mix of passive-aggressive remarks coupled by ultra-protective behavior; she tries to eliminate any rivals who show up (the scene with Lilly at the door is striking), supports Nina’s determination to succeed, clips Nina’s nails so Nina won’t ruin her body through stressful scratching. Erica’s motivation seems success and appearance oriented more than compassionate—Nina’s body should be perfect—she does not seem too concerned that something is terribly wrong with her daughter’s somatic state. Nina does not own her own body.

Other female characters are caught up in the tyranny of body-as-object. Beth MacIntyre, the aging ballerina forced out of stardom by Thomas, only sees herself as a ballet body; losing her role as lead ballerina, she attempts suicide, destroys her body’s core competencies, is crippled, later stabs herself in the face in front of Nina with her nail file as a kind of revengeful self-immolation at the loss of her body. For Beth, she is nothing without her perfect body but because of her unintegrated destructive side, she is attempting to take back the body in destructive behaviors.

Mirrors as visual effects are ubiquitous throughout Black Swan. Ballet’s predilection toward perfection of bodily form requires mirrors as part of ballet training. Mirrors are in Nina’s and Erica’s home and in the ballet studio, for studying her form, for self-criticism, and personal awareness of the body but not for inner personal awareness of the body as consciousness. Nina hears a mirror shatter when the aging Beth is forced to leave her dressing room and the ballet company. The mirror is again shattered in the fight with Lilly before the Black Swan part of the ballet, then Nina stabs this intruding other or herself with the shard of mirror as she shouts, “This is my time, my time.”

The mirror is archetypal; it suggests evidence of narcissism. It is potentially pathological and frightening. The mirrors suggest the physical body-as-object that is vulnerable and liable to pathological narcissism. In a mirror, only the outer, surface appearance of the body can be seen, inviting comparison and evaluation with others who could be even more beautiful, thin, talented, and successful than the one seeking approval and validation in the mirror. Everyone in the movie is subject to and obsessed by their own success, to opening night, and how they look to others.

Self-injury and eating pathology are critical themes in the film as well as among many females in real life. The female body is exhorted to achieve perfection and can be vulnerable to self-harm under circumstances of depression, pathology, psychosis, neurosis, and excessive stress. In the body-as-object paradigm, the one who has or owns the body can do anything she wants with her body since she owns it. We see multiple scenes of driving the body through inhuman schedules, purging for control or expiation of tension, and inhuman physical positions. Then, there are biting, cutting, scratching, stabbing, and pulling at the body parts in a voluntary or involuntary way.

Nina meets the Other, the irresistibly erotic Lilly who represents Nina’s shadow side. Hailing from San Francisco, a city with a different archetype than New York City—looser, flexible, laid back, West Coast-style experiential, let-it-happen, erotic, and free-form—Lilly bursts on the ballet scene as interloper, competitor, seducer, and mirror so that Nina as lead ballerina can use Lilly’s example to grasp and embody the elusively sensual, free-spirited, magical, mysterious Black Swan. As rival and attractor, Lilly gives Nina a harsh opportunity for psychic growth. If mythologically Nina is like Kore the maiden before she is abducted by Hades into the underworld, Lilly could be the archetypal siren Aphrodite or Persephone or maybe she is Hades in feminine form. Lily’s style is authentic, free, and insinuating—the epitome of the Black Swan’s role—contrasting to Nina’s dancing as inhibited, soft, pure and aesthetic—the White Swan. Nina needs Lily as a contender to help her embrace her sexuality, and grasp the new form of perfection demanded by Thomas, which is the perfection of form combined with the unleashed power of letting go.

The movement back and forth between human dancer and swan starts subtly at the beginning of the movie and then intensifies, matching the plot of Swan Lake. Nina’s body is becoming independent of her will. It is acting on its own in ways that are unpredictable, uncomfortable, and although moving beyond body-as-object, her actual body becomes a malevolent subject as it transforms on its own when Nina dances the Black Swan during opening night. The Black Swan has possessed her; she goes on stage with a formidable freedom, power, and eroticism. As if there are no more inhibitions standing in her way, Nina seems satisfied as the Black Swan’s veins and feathers come up over her hands and arms; black wings cover her; her body is becoming subject. Her winged state is independent of her originating objectivized body, letting her transcend old limitations and achieve a temporary union of the opposites—the white of consciousness with the black of the unconscious—to the wild response of the audience and her fellow dancers. Nina’s new Black Swan body-as-subject is electric; she has achieved what seems to be a momentary transcendent function at the heightened experience of the performance; she is now embodying the Black Swan. Possessed by the shadow archetype, Nina transcends the role, Swan Lake, and herself. For a short moment she is the star who triumphs. Nina is integrated with the spirit of the new ballet and almost breaks the spell of the evil magician.

At the film’s end, has Nina physically died from her self-wound or died to her old persona so that, at least in my optimistic imagination, she may begin again as a more integrated artist after a period of recuperation. Is her death the price paid for giving ourselves to the archetypal shadow or is it a symbolic death?

Repeated viewing of Black Swan brings out its rich psychological dimensions and makes its original thriller tonality less important. Seeing it a second and third time, Black Swan feels meaningful, less shocking, and more realistic, like a strange and psychologized version of what I know happens with talented young artists and their parents. The film blends the stress of societal expectations, the arts at a high level, and the difficulties of dysfunctional family enmeshment with Nina’s personal individuational process, her descent, and her truncated journey to integrate her self states. When Nina descends into psychosis, she activates her hidden Black Swan self. As it emerges, the Black Swan self embodies all that her unconscious self had wished to become and which may have originally motivated her intuitively to seek out the role from Thomas. What Nina seeks is not the old version of perfection in which the body is a fine-tuned machine that brilliantly performs what the mind tells it to do. In our imaginations, we can hope that there is a new kind of integrity and fulfillment for her based upon freedom, integration of her light and dark sides, and authenticity of the passion to escape the body-as-object’s imprisonment and experience the body-as-subject’s flying free.
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Christina ReynoldsReviewed in the United States on January 28, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Hauntingly Palpable and Self-Referential
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𝑰𝒇 𝑰 𝒘𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒐𝒏𝒍𝒚 𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏, 𝒔𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒃𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔.
𝑩𝒖𝒕 𝑰'𝒎 𝒏𝒐𝒕.

. Inspired by German folk tales like 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑾𝒉𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝑫𝒖𝒄𝒌 and 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑺𝒕𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒏 𝑽𝒆𝒊𝒍 by Johann Karl August Musäus, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was invited to compose the music for a new ballet - this being 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏 𝑳𝒂𝒌𝒆 - in 1875.
The initial reaction to Swan Lake once it debuted in 1877 was far from fetching. It was categorized as a complete failure by critics and viewers alike, and strayed away from Tchaikovsky’s original vision due in part to alterations made to his work by a choreographer named Julius Reisinger.
In 1895 Marius Petipa collaborated with an assistant in an attempt to re-release 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏 𝑳𝒂𝒌𝒆 with minimal changes made to Tchaikovsky’s score; Tchaikovsky was never able to reap the benefits that would come with the success of his creation as he died in 1893, but it continues to stand the test of time as a culturally significant piece that provides ample opportunity for creativity and innovative magnificence.

Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological horror film directed by Darren Aronofsky. The screenplay was written by Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin, and Andres Heinz, based on an original story by Heinz. The film stars Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder. The plot revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake ballet by the New York City Ballet company.

Working with a budget of approximately $13 million, the extent to which Aronofsky’s crew made sacrifices of their own for the sake of 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏’s accomplishments can’t go overstated. With little guarantee that her efforts might bear fruits, Portman began studying ballet under New York City Ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers approximately a year before filming, with many of these lessons being paid for out of her own pocket until investors could be properly secured.
While on set Portman suffered a significant amount of injuries with the most significant of them being a dislocated rib, and this necessitated her giving up many things (Specifically: her own trailer) to receive substantial medical attention. These efforts were not made in vain, thankfully so, as her dedication to Nina’s role and reality is hauntingly palpable all while honoring the duality of ‘𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏’s titular character. Her presence is elevated and rivaled by Kunis’ sensual repertoire, with her unquestionable ability to steal scenes without selflessly keeping them to herself.
It is worth noting that there is a discrepancy regarding the amount of dancing actually performed by Portman; a woman by the name of Sarah Lane has spoken out as having completing the more technically advanced moves seen in 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏, with ‘woman in the lane’ (AKA, her cameo in this film) being one of few mentions made regarding her contributions to this project as a whole.
To be perfectly honest I’m not too sure what to make of this claim myself, and Lane hasn’t expressed discontent or regret towards this particular matter. She does, however, hope audience members understand that parts of 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏 elevated by advanced choreography took much longer than a year for her to get a firm and equally confident grasp on.

Given the odds of becoming a professional ballerina (An approximately slim 3%, just FYI), it’s no guess as to why Nina’s character development happens independent of what could be labeled as arbitrary nuance. Focus is kept on the extent to which her profession is a particularly demanding one (As many dancers report practicing for 6 to 7 hours 𝒑𝒆𝒓 𝒅𝒂𝒚 when they are in season), with subtle and lurid hints as to trajectory of her livelihood if not deemed a critical success. Some may argue that Nina has a choice - this being to dance or not to dance - but the simplicity would be unwarranted; the space in which she occupies is defined by a margin of error that is tiny - microscopic, even - with a particular fixation on vanity negating the effect of what could serve as mitigating factors.

How does one elaborate on 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏’s thematic presence and appeal without spoiling the ending?
I guess I’ll give it a shot.
I’ll also start by saying that there is a distinct and referential semblance of irony in Lane’s complaints referenced to above; moreover, it speaks to the effect of vicarious pedestalization within the context of entertainment based professions. Leading up to 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏’s conclusion is a variety of external stimuli that justifies Nina’s obsession with perfection; her own mother lives through her achievements without so much as a second thought, and her coach is eager to reap the benefit of interactions that Nina herself has had a hand in making possible to begin with. In the last 40 seconds an additional force is snuck in insidiously, with this being the audience cheering for Nina with little clue as to how her suffering and loss has subsequently metastasized into their own gain. As this cheering fades it may be appropriate to suggest that Nina’s worth may do so as well, and this sets a clear precedent for maladaptive and self-fulfilling patterns of behavior long after the credits have exited stage left.

As valuable when taken at face-value as it can be when treated with analytical merit, 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏 is a spirit-stirring journey through pulsating madness that is interrupted intermittently by brief periods of sanity and genuine sources of support. Most importantly, 𝑩𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒌 𝑺𝒘𝒂𝒏 explores the line between the ones that make wages and those that actually pay the price, with a dispositional concern for moments where the show can’t just simply go on.
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Mike MorrisonReviewed in the United States on February 22, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Gripping story in an unusual setting!
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Much less realized in the fine arts than in, say, professional sports, is that the artists must compete with one another for the seats in the orchestra, the roles in Shakespeare, and, in this case, the starring role in the ballet.

With superb writing, casting, staging, and direction, Black Swan makes this point with delicious perfection and tension, and even if you know nothing about ballet the art form, you'll understand what the people who wish to live it on the professional level must endure.

The setting is perfect. Tchaikovsky's immense ballet Swan Lake demands not just one, but TWO magnificently difficult and exactly opposite characters be performed, usually, by a single dancer. So difficult is this that many ballet companies use two different dancers for the two roles. In Black Swan, the director believes the story carries much more impact and power if he can find the ONE dancer who can effectively realize both parts.

The problem is, he finds only half the perfect performer. Superbly played by Natalie Portman, the character of Nina, he says, makes the perfect white swan, but fails to feel and convey the part of the evil black swan. She must dance like a virgin for the white swan, but become the evil and seductive temptress for the black swan. It helps at this point if you understand at least a little about ballet, but it is spelled out and shown what the director means, and you'll be able to go with it. She's sweet enough for the good girl but not nearly evil enough for the bad one.

Well, this is already an interesting and powerful story, but then, you begin to realize that the Portman character, Nina, may be so deep into trying to become two different persons at the same time that the presence of a possible competitor, Lily (a brilliant Mila Kunis!) begins not only to add pressure but blur the line between the real and the imagined.

I should toss in here that made a few decades ago, this is the kind of part Natalie Wood could have nailed, and a couple more decades back from that, Jean Harlow, before her untimely death at 26, was on her way to being able to realize roles like this. Natalie Portman is wonderful and richly deserving of the Best Actress Oscar she won for this role.

As this all unfolds, it does not let us, the viewers, off the hook easily, and we begin to wonder for ourselves what is real and what is not. It becomes incredibly powerful.

I won't spoil anything, but The Big Finish is incredibly impactful, driven by Tchaikovsky's absolutely magnificent music, and you will NOT have seen it coming!

A fun added feature is a detailed splane and demonstration as to how it makes you believe that Portman, a powerful actress and graceful dancer but NOT a real ballerina, really DOES the dancing. She studied and even took ballet lessons, but still needed some creative movie making to put this all together.

Up for a plethora of Oscars and other awards, Black Swan is magnificent on all levels. Click on it right this instant and be prepared for multiple viewings to be drawn into the multiple facets and levels it will lay out for you!
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A. MasionReviewed in the United States on March 31, 2011
1.0 out of 5 stars
Black Swan -- Do YOU know BS when you see it?
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DISCLAIMER PLEASE READ: (a) this review is very long; (b) this review contains spoilers, and (c) this review represents my subjective opinions of a motion picture. If any aspect intimidates or offends you, please read no further.

How far must an artist go to actualize perfection in his work? When must a parent acknowledge an adult child's autonomy and independence? Are exploitation, manipulation, and sexual abuse good tools for a teacher to encourage artistic talent's maturation to its fullest potential? Where exists the ultra-thin boundary separating eccentric genius from psychotic workaholic and when has an artist crossed it? If an actor sinks too deep "into character," how does s/he escape?

I didn't enjoy "Black Swan." It's not that I don't comprehend the significant themes visited in the film. It's not I don't appreciate the film's good points (nice music and cinematography, pretty good costumes and sets, great casting.) It's not that I lack analytical ability or intellectual refinement. I watched "Black Swan" twice and took a day to consider what I liked and disliked about the film and it ultimately boiled down to the mediocre storyline, poor writing (especially dialogue) and the excessive pornographic content disguised as "art" in the movie.

What I Really Liked:

1) The ballet performances were lovely, not earth-shattering, but very well acted. The backlash concerning Portman's dance is ridiculous. Portman is a film star who trained for a year so she wouldn't make a fool of herself portraying a prima ballerina. She achieved that. She isn't the next Gelsey Kirkland, don't expect the polished precision of a world-class professional ballerina who's done the same work for years. Portman and Kunis dance competently and both actresses interject beautiful emotion and physical acting into their admittedly brief dance scenes. I would've liked seeing more ballet performed in the film with or without the actresses. The film's opening scene really captured me and I enjoyed the final performance. I simply wanted to see more of it. There are some interesting special effects I felt neither enhanced nor detracted from the dance.

2) I found the soundtrack compelling, charming, and eerily beautiful. I believe Peter Tcaikovsky, a very innovative composer in his own day, would be enchanted by Clint Mansell's compositions reimagining his work. At times familiar, in other places creepily original, the soundtrack helps carry this film.

3) Costumes, sets, and lighting: almost always, these elements were carefully neutral which forced viewers' attention onto the actors and actresses (physical action, body language, and spoken dialogue.) The cast's clothing and accessories seemed color coordinated to identify the darker characters and the lighter ones. Lily always wears black or charcoal. Nina wears lots of white and girly pale pink.

4) Casting: the talent was very good and well-suited to their respective roles. Natalie Portman's character, Nina, carries most of the work and Portman did a fine job. Whatever my opinion of the movie, I applaud Portman's hard work in interpreting a complicated role. Dance involves acting and Portman portrayed a dancer portraying a character to whom the dancer could not relate. Portman earned her Oscar.

Supporting actress Mila Kunis's Lily provided an excellent foil to Nina. Barbara Hershey (Nina's controlling mother) makes the most of the material she's given and does surprisingly well. I wasn't never fully convinced what Mom's motives were. On the one hand, she came across as frighteningly intrusive and controlling. At the same time, I think the script hinted Mom's awareness of and concern for her daughter's fragile mental state. She seemed to want Nina to succeed, but also protect her from success.

Winona Ryder makes waves as drama queen Beth McIntyre, the company's former prima ballerina who's not handling her pending retirement gracefully. For the pittance of screen time she has, Ryder knows how to draw attention to herself.

Finally, Vincent Cassel portrays Thomas Leroy, the most thankless role in the film, a stereotypical, Eurotrash ballet director and unapologetic sexual predator eager to take advantage of a newer, younger prima ballerina now that Beth's retiring. This guy is smarmy, gross, and prone to coaching his principles during rehearsal with helpful comments like, "David, can I ask you? Honestly, would you f*(k that girl? ... Nina, your dancing is just as frigid ... " I literally gagged when he informed Nina, "I'll be the prince" as he took over the male lead so he could grope and fondle Nina in order to inspire the "passion" Nina lacks to channel the Black Swan. Cassel's a very good villain. I would let this slime work with my daughter when elephants roost in trees.

What I Really Disliked:

1) The ambiguous storyline reaches "fiction that doesn't make sense" mode. Ambiguity is a natural result of Nina's unreliable perspective, but too much is never resolved. "Black Swan" could easily be one of those films or shows where the protagonist wakes up and realizes s/he was only dreaming, daydreaming, in a coma, hallucinating due to illness/injury from which s/he has recovered, etc.. Those scenarios, even when well done, always leave me feeling a bit ripped off.

2) Unlikeable Characters: I don't like a single personality in this film. These are not flawed, relatable human people, these are unlikeable, unpleasant human people with every wart on show. Even the bit characters behave abominably (i.e., Veronica cursing out Nina and accusing her of "making sick jokes" after Nina, misled by LeRoy, congratulates the dancer on her successful audition for the Swan Queen.)

Most of the characters are shockingly amoral. Drug abuse, one night stands, suicide and/or attempted suicide, and self-mutilation are all on the menu. Nina also vomits frequently; it's unclear if she is bulimic or if her vomiting is symptomatic of other problems.

Every character lacked depth, including Nina. One thing that struck me during my second viewing is that I never got the impression Nina really loved ballet. That disturbed me the more I considered it. I mean, the entire point of the movie is Nina's struggle for knowledge/experience to do her role justice. She didn't seem to love dance, or even like it much. Obsession isn't necessarily love. Nina's loveless obsession with dance would have bothered me less had the film shown us what or who Nina DID love or care about.

What I can't Stand:

1) The dialogue is awful. Just awful. There is nothing natural, flowing, or normal in how people speak to each other in this film.

2) "Black Swan" contains heavy sexual content, most of it a gratuitous distraction from the main plot (or maybe it's intended to distract viewers from the plot's flimsiness and help fill in film time.) I admit I'm usually turned off by too much nudity or sex in a movie, and this was just ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the possibility these experiences are actually Nina's hallucinations. Make no mistake, this movie is pornographic. This isn't erotic content, the sexual excesses do not court an emotional response in the viewer, nor are the scenes titillating.

How much sex is in this film? Shenanigans start about 50 minutes into the film and continue almost to the end.

A) Leroy forces himself upon Nina during a rehearsal session, kissing and groping her ... then leaving her high and dry and terming his behavior "me seducing you, but it needs to be the other way around." What planet is Leroy (or the writer who created Leroy) from? Seriously, Nina is not the only one in need of regular contact with a qualified mental health care professional. Leroy isn't sexy or seductive, he's gross.

B) Nina masturbates several times. Each masturbatory "session" involves a bizarre "payoff." In one situation Nina is deeply "into" it and discovers her mother sound asleep in a chair alongside her bed. While dozing and masturbating in the bathtub, Nina hallucinates Lily spitting or dropping blood on her (sounds real sexy, huh? NOT!)

C) On a train, Nina is victimized by ANOTHER pervy old guy (I guess Leroy's perviness isn't sufficient.) Her fellow passenger blows kisses at her and fondles his crotch while she struggles to look away and pretend nothing is happening. Apparently, phoning the authorities isn't an option.

D) Nina and Lily sexuality -- just plain gratuitous and in poor taste. Yes, I know a dozen people are gonna chime in, "But it's so meaningful! It demonstrates Nina's desperation to free herself of her white swan persona and seek relief from her mother's intrusive, domineering control." I found it disruptive and irrelevant. Lily is an obvious "frenemy" to Nina and a completely unbelieveable character (frequently late to rehearsals, living a busy night life, sexually promiscuous, a substance abuser) NOTE: Nina also fantasizes Lily smothers her with an accent pillow after orally pleasuring her, but no reviewers are complaining THAT portion of her "escapist fantasy" wasn't depicted in greater detail. Hardy har har.

E) Nina hallucinates Lily having sex with another dancer, costumed as Von Rothbart, in the studio.

Yes, folks, this passes for Oscar nominee material in the 21st century. Maybe if the creators axed some of the porn and wrote in a bit more story, this film might have actually gone somewhere.

I'd rate "Black Swan" 3 stars for the talent, music, and the cinematography if the film revealed a worthwhile, engaging story. The purpose of film is to entertain, and this film does not do that. One star is the best rating I can offer BS due to its failings as an engaging storytelling vehicle.
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Barbara BinkleyReviewed in the United States on January 19, 2012
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Compelling Look Into The Crucible of Ballet
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The beloved ballet "Swan Lake" is the most beautiful and compelling of all ballets. But, the film "Black Swan" is its destroyer -- a psycho dramatic voyage into the underworld of ballet.

Nina Sayers, a budding ballerina extraordinaire, finds herself in a waking nightmare as she ventures as a maiden into the domain of the black swan. The pressure on Nina is intense. For starters, she dwells in the crucible of the all-consuming world of a New York ballet company.

At home, she fends off the hovering presence of an overbearing mother, a former ballet dancer who never made it out of the corps not even to soloist let alone to principal dancer. Her dual dominance of her daughter runs hot and cold from loving acceptance to grim disapproval. She wants her daughter to succeed and yet, perhaps not too much.

Nina has no close friends in the ballet company with its cutthroat competiveness. Yet the company is her life force. Bereft, too, of normal sexual release with another, the sole focus of her physical body is as an object of the dance.

It is the presence of Lily, the free spirited newcomer to the company that pushes Nina's buttons, driving her unbearably. I couldn't help noting Lily as a take-off on Lilith, the dark soul who in Jewish folklore is to have been Adam's first wife before the creation of Eve.

There is a real-life experience of complete mental collapse in the ballet world. It is known that the Russian ballerina Olga Spessivtseva was institutionalized for twenty years in an upper New York state hospital before being released. The ballerina had visited and intensely observed mental patients in preparation for the famed mad scene in the ballet "Giselle" and this led to her own bout with insanity.

All in all, there is much that is out of sync in this film.

The role of the prince in the ballet performance is danced by a guy named David (the name itself means beloved) whose emotions run only from A to B. He doesn't emotionally engage as he "walks the ballerina" in performance like a somnambulist. Nina Sayers is too much work for him. He even drops her in performance and later just looks dazed in bewilderment at her fate as the condemned swan.

It's been said that ballet is woman, and yet, ballet is nowhere without a compelling male dancer. Margot Fonteyn writes in her book "The Magic Of Dance," (I am fortunate to have an autographed copy) that "Dance is very much an man's activity."

I cannot imagine what ballet would be in today's world without the foregoing geatness of Rudolf Nureyev, my overall favorite dancer, and the charismatic talent of Mikhail Baryshnikov who made ballet respectable for the male dancer through his role in the ballet film "The Turning Point." Ballet would mean nothing for me today without the gentle excellence of Angel Corella, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre.

In October of 1986, a ballet review that I wrote "The Paris Opera Ballet's Controversial Swan Lake" appeared in "The World & I," an international magazine of the Washington (DC) Times. This disturbing version was choreographed by Rudolf Nureyev as a nightmarish dream of the principal male character. It destroyed the beauty of the eternal vow made in traditional versions to Odette by the prince by never even acknowledging it.

Nureyev, who danced in some performances as the prince and in others as the tutor, did not dance in the one I reviewed, implies that the prince is destroyed by the dark influence of his tutor who becomes his Rothbart.

I did see Rudolf Nureyev dance in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" that he choreographed at the Metropolitan Opera on July 18, 1981. As Romeo, his greatness still shone brilliantly. Margot Fonteyn, however was relegated to dancing the role of Juliet's mother, Lady Capulet.

After this performance, I saw Rudolf Nureyev outside the backstage entrance. I handed him an individual packet of a vitamin product that I had been selling. He took it, flashed that famous smile of his at me, and asked me what it was. I told him, vitamins. He then graciously autographed my program....one of my most cherished of all the autographs I've collected.

The very best aspect of "Black Swan" is its incredible casting. Natalie Portman embodied Nina Sayers to perfection. She truly earned the Oscar she was awarded for Best Actress. Benjamin Millepied, principal dancer and choreographer with New York City Ballet, downplayed his charisma in the role of David and yet his smoldering presence came through. Vincent Cassel blew me away as the artistic director, fascinating me as much as he did Nina Sayers. I was stunned when I learned that he was an actor but not a dancer. Mila Kunis as Lily was compelling and I enjoyed her role but, other than in appearance, in no way did she resemble an actual ballerina. I can't imagine that a tattoo such as she displayed on her back would be tolerated in a major company and the ballerinas whom I have known were disciplined in the extreme...free spirits inside perhaps...but never, never in public nor on display.

This film is a must for every true lover of ballet, if only for its glimpse into a dancer's world which never can be fully imagined from a pristine seat in the audience.
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maskirovkaReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2010
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Phenomenal Blend of Beauty, Horror, Tragedy, and Triumph
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Black Swan is one of the best movies I've ever seen. I just saw it a few days ago and I plan to see it a few more --or maybe a few more than "a few" times-- before it leaves the theaters. And I know I'll buy the DVD when that comes out and watch it more times with the luxury of being able to study why it worked so well by virtue of my DVD player's pause, rewind, and slow-motion buttons.

In this review I will explain why the movie had such an impact on me and then in a section below the word "spoilers" I will make a few comments about the plot and particularly the ending.

Why was it so compelling a film? Because it was a powerful story, brilliantly executed, and with incredible performances by four of the lead cast.

The story line is quite gripping. We watch someone who is beautiful, talented, driven to perfection and incredibly fragile take on a performance that quite literally pushes her into a psychotic break. We cheer for Nina Sayers; we pity her; and we fear for her as the twisty plot unfolds springing surprises on the viewer along the way.

The film is beautifully staged. It made ballet accessible for me and I imagine a lot of other people who were not into it. I found both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis's dancing to be very convincing and moving. The film deftly presents us with moments of beauty (especially Nina's ultimate performance as the Black Swan) and moments of horror when the film plays its little tricks to convince us she is losing her mind.

The performances were what sold it in the end. Natalie Portman's portrayal of Nina was utterly convincing as someone teetering on the edge of madness. And I suspect I'm not alone among guys who would find themselves wishing they could rescue her from her plight.

Mila Kunis, Vincent Kassel, and Barhara Hershey also did tremendous work. Mila made a wonderful foil to Nina as Lily, the embodiment of what the Black Swan should have been...a carefree, beautiful, sexy woman. Vincent Kassel in the role of Thomas Leroy gave a performance that ensured a character that could have amounted to a hateful cliche was believable and one could easily understand why Nina would find him so captivating and overwhelming.

Finally, Barbara Hershey turned in a fine performance as Nina's damaged mother, someone who loved her daughter but in a way that was twisted and malign and profoundly unnerving.

<SPOILERS>

You'll notice I left out Winona Ryder from my list above. It's not that she did a bad job in the part she played of Beth, the former prima ballerina. It's just that the character was such a small part...it could have been done by anyone. I find myself wondering if there were scenes involving her that wound up on the cutting room floor since a draft of the shooting script I saw had more scenes with her in it. It's not a flaw to the movie but I do wonder why an actress of Ryder's caliber was willing to do such a small role.

A lot has been made of "anger and ecstasy fueled lesbian hate sex" between the characters of Nina and Lily. I actually thought there were other scenes that were sexier (Nina "touching herself" and a scene where Thomas shows Nina what it's like to be seduced). It's also important to remember that Nina and Lily's encounter was just a figment of Nina's burgeoning psychosis and also an indicator of how repressed she was (it was pretty clear she was a virgin).

I also think that critics who describe the relationship between Lily and Nina as a "twisted friendship" are missing the boat on that. The friendship is only twisted as seen through Nina's distorted view. I think that Nina's psychosis assigned Lily, the role of nemesis and rival that she really did not play in reality.

Finally, here are my thoughts about the ending. It's been the subject of a lot of debate on the Internet Movie Database. Some people are convinced that Nina died in the end after giving a phenomenal performance as the Black Swan...that when she thought she killed her "rival" Lily, she only managed to wound herself with a shard from the mirror she broke.

I think the movie is deliberately ambiguous about what really happened. My interpretation of what did was that Nina did manage to hurt herself but not all that badly...which would explain why she was able to to perform as the Black Swan and the White Swan instead of being found in a pool of her own blood in her dressing room. I flatly reject the idea that she could have danced the way she did if she was as badly hurt as she was. I think it's more believable to conclude that Nina may have been convinced she had mortally wounded herself but was simply overcome by her psychosis and the fact that in the end she really had pulled it off and become perfect.
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EmaReviewed in the United States on July 7, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
not just a pro-ana movie
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i know everyone watched black swan because they think seeing the dancers get stressed out as they "prepare for a role" will motivate them to lose weight, and while the respected actresses in the film do look really thin i think this movie is about way more than that it's about a search between wanting happiness for yourself and your desire to reach perfection (like in dance)...but it's also about people who go off the deep end like natalie portman's character at the end, so the movie also reminds us that like being nice to our mom's as we train up for ballet season or nice to the choreographer is important too. i also like the mila kunis character always showing up late for rehearsal and just kind of being rebellious: her character is from san francisco and i'm a bay area native and i only realized, like, after watching this movie that i should do this with a little more...decorum.
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John SutherlandReviewed in the United States on June 4, 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
Whew - what a movie
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I originally bought this movie because 1) I like Natalie Portman, and 2) because one of my daughters had studied ballet and I wanted to learn more about that art form. The movie was fairly priced and arrived on time, and my four star rating is based on the movie content itself.

So, why did I give the movie a four star rating? Well everything about the technical aspects of the movie were excellent. The direction and the acting were great. The dancing, the costumes, and the sets were great. No problems there.

My viewing problem was with me, I admit, and the fact that I tend not to like weird movies, and while the first half of the movie was pretty good as a story, the second half seemed to get a bit odd (weird?). I followed along to the end with somewhat bated breath, wondering what sort of unexpected mischief would happen, and in that respect, I was not disappointed. The movie ended up being a bit of an intense gothic thriller, and not my own personal style. Whew. Good movie, just not my style.
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