An intense psychological tour de force that is both fascinating and quaintly disturbing!
From the Director that gave us multi-awarded winning films “Requiem for a Dream”, “The Wrestler” and “The Fountain” comes a poignant tale of lust for fame and the motives that go along with it! The film was inspired from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Double” where Darren Aronofsky makes another brilliant masterpiece to come to life into the big screen with Fox Searchlight Pictures studio in the distribution front!
This is a story of a girl, a ballerina trying to find her way to be the best that she can be. Fragile and childlike, she undergoes everyday experiences like a normal human being but not everything appears as it should be. Natalie Portman (Closer) gives a haunting performance in a starring role well deserved to win the most coveted Best Actress award. She breathes life to Nina Sayers, chosen to portray “The Swan Queen” providing both the White and Black Swans metamorphosis to intertwine flawlessly as perceived, as instructed and as fate dictates it!
As created layers upon layers of depression coming from all angles makes her give in to anxiety and in a pivotal turning point, she was at first very hesitant to embrace this however, it slowly turns into a psychological predicament as the story moves on! Her retaliation proves her undoing (or was it) just to get the role she craves for even if it means getting someone hurt or killed! The two roles encapsulated by a Queen, Princess Odeth (White Swan) and Princess Odile (Black Swan) were given to Natalie’s character which she absolutely performed with charisma and grace. Even more her transformation which was relatively fascinating, feeding all the energy she could get trying to cope up with acceptance but fails so carelessly as she succumb to what she truly desires…to be Perfect!!!
Joined by Cesar Award Winner Vincent Cassell (Mesrine) the highly regarded French Actor delivers another powerful performance as always! He plays Thomas Leroy, the malevolent perfectionist Director in the Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet, a very prestigious New York based company. The intimate and consensual favors he inflicts and demands to his protégé has left the inspiring dancer to be scarred, seduced, lingering thought of deceit and malice take over her while concomitantly pushing her to the limit of becoming obsessed producing a blind rage that slowly eats her and her sanity!
Greek Actress Mila Kunis (Book of Eli) is the exceptionally sly Lily, jumping the spring board here to dive in another genre coming from her usual comedic take in both films and a series of TV sitcoms. Friends turned enemies; she gave her character a simple take on being a seemingly harmless colleague invoking a friendly competition. Seeing her as a threat to the coveted part, her coordination with Natalie was extraordinary, considering her as a naive and innocent girl, Lily consciously reeks her wicked discretion that can really give you goose bumps!
Barbara Hershey (The Last Temptation of Christ) is Erica Sayers the mother who was succeeded by her daughter as a professional ballet dancer as well. Her constant over protectiveness to keep her in check has made her daughter more susceptible to the dark side!
Back from a four year hiatus, Winona Ryder (Reality Bites) was very remarkable even for a shorter stint in the film; she brings in Beth McIntyre’s loathing, providing her character’s depressed state being ousted as the paramour of the Director who sees her as an obsolete dancer due to her fallen youth. Since he met a younger, more beautiful replacement to encompass the lead role!
Academy Awards Nominee Matthew Libatique’s (Iron Man) great talent from a Filipino-American descent, his Cinematography engraves with the plot of making the two sides of light and darkness be in their specific tones and instil an awe inspiring ambiance of subtlety and madness! Combining with the melancholic and dramatic theme of the play and the actions given not only by the lead actress but the overall direction though magnified by professional choreography in the given sequences, he also made it specifically elaborate on the character’s facial expression, timing of sequences and the set ambiance!
Returning Screenplay Writer Mark Heyman (The Wrestler) with John McLaughlin and Andres Heinz in their debut film delivers a story that is filled with surrealism that encompasses the thoughts behind the mind of Nina while throwing back and forth mixed emotions of passion, frustration and torment that keeps her more inclined and swirling endlessly into the dark side. Typical as they might say that the film garnered accolades but there are also reasons for some mixed criticisms as relayed by stereotyped routines coming from interviewed actual professional ballerinas.
Nevertheless, it was a well paced suspense drama that invigorates thought provoking uncertainties which comes to say what the mind can perceive the body can achieve! Performances of the cast were exceptionally delivered to provide the needed emotional standpoint of the troubled Nina. The setting was extraordinary, dark and condescending as it really captured the moments of her weakness, humbled and humiliated, taunted by the very people that will make her who she really was meant to be!
Bow your heads… the show is over!