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Black Swan Movie Review


5 Stars

Ever have that crazy dream – nightmare really, and usually recurring – of being asked to give a live presentation for which you’re completely unprepared? Or, what about the one of having to take a final exam for a school course you’ve not attended since the first day of class? A dancer’s nightmare is surely to find herself on stage performing a piece for which she doesn’t remember the moves. Black Swan opens with such a dream.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina dancing the role of the white swan from Swan Lake. But in her nightmare, the choreography was changed at the last moment. And whereas we always awaken from our dream just before the microphone goes live, Nina nails her routine, dancing every step of it exquisitely… because she’s consumed with perfection. She practices tirelessly in front of the mirror to the point of toenails splitting and joints cracking. But there’s a strong sense of insecurity incessantly pirouetting in the recesses of her psyche - one part ego-maniac bent on obsessive flawlessness, the other a vulnerable ballerina just waiting to be passed over for the graces of the next young ingénue. It’s this paradoxical nature of a performer that Darren Aronofsky explores with smoldering aplomb in Black Swan.

After the dream, Nina discovers that indeed her company will be performing Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and that she’s up for the prize role of the Swan Queen. But she’s literally driving herself crazy with the pressure; her mother (Barbara Hershey) pushing vicariously from one end, the slave-driving director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), from the other.  In the middle is a pale, skeletal little waif that patters back and forth between the studio and a dingy apartment she shares with her mother. As if the self-induced pressure weren’t enough, there’s the incessant force of up-and-comer Lily (Mila Kunis) nipping at her heels as the understudy. This surely can’t be healthy for Nina as she’s always on the verge of tears and walking the edge of some kind of mental or nervous breakdown. On second thought, that might be a favorable outcome.

Aronofsky owes a bit of debt to Roman Polanski as he masterfully depicts the slow burn of the human spirit and the endless cycle of good and evil with Black Swan. He also goes a bit Cronenberg when Nina explores the darker side of her sexuality with Lily and when Thomas assigns her some homework: “touch yourself.” But it’s all Aronofsky all the time when he also calls from his Pi and Requiem for a Dream roots with the depiction of a precarious life spiraling out of control. While it was initially a bit puzzling to try and fathom his leap from those films to ‘09’s The Wrestler, the performances he gets from his leads in Wrestler and this film erase any doubts or skepticism that he's pulled it off.

Portman, who also does her own dancing, skillfully yet frighteningly exposes every layer of her dancer’s intricate emotional state. As the white swan, she’s timid and vulnerable but full of light and obsessed with perfection. Thomas, the clever tyrant, knows he’ll need to drive, manipulate, and capriciously degrade to force out the black swan from his prima ballerina. He may get more than he bargains for as she morphs from crying-for-help desperation to scorching sensuality tinged with a healthy dose of danger.

Portman gives an all-in performance that’ll surely be remembered come Oscar time. While certainly risky to lean so heavily on an actress who’s arguably stepping up a few notches from her previous archetypal films, the pay-off will be huge for both the long-term vitality of her career and, at least, the short-term success of Black Swan. The film is a fearless journey into the schizophrenic soul of an artist. An abstract thought for sure, but Aronofsky and Portman pull it off to near perfection.


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Black Swan Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
: Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz
Cast: Natalie Portman; Mila Kunis; Vincent Cassel
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Memorable Movie Quote:
"I had the craziest dream last night about a girl who has turned into a swan, but her prince falls for the wrong girl and she kills herself."
Release Date: December 3, 2010
Blu-ray Release Date:
March 29, 2011.


[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

Black Swan Movie Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars
5 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 29, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English SDH, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (on disc); BD-Live; Mobile features



  • None

Special Features:

  • Black Swan Metamorphosis (1080p, 48:55)
  • Ballet (1080p, 2:33)
  • Production Design (1080p, 4:00)
  • Profile: Natalie Portman (1080p, 3:16)
  • Profile: Darron Aronofsky (1080p, 2:48)
  • Conversation: Preparing for the Role (1080p, 3:53)
  • Conversation: Dancing with the Camera (1080p, 1:35)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Natalie Portman (SD, 5:56)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Winona Ryder (SD, 2:17)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Barbara Hershey (SD, 3:37)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Vincent Cassel (SD, 4:43)
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents: Direct Effect, Darren Aronofsky (SD, 6:23)
  • Sneak Peak
  • Live Extras
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 2:02)
  • Mobile Features:


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