Darren Aronofsky directs Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis in this psychological horror where a fragile ballet dancer pushes herself beyond the brink of sanity to take the lead role in Swan Lake.
A sumptuous, expert rattler. Aronofsky bombards you with shocks and waves of unreality so that you can barely assess your own rationality, let alone the waif-like Portman’s. Portraits come to life, doppelgängers eat you out, and bodies mutate in an escalating crescendo of loopy terror. This is also an incredibly erotic movie, unlike anything else in the porcelain doll Portman’s career. Watching the virgin fall makes for compulsive adult popcorn, and the creatives jointly pitch this aspect exactly right. We tiptoe along the fine line between identification and exploitation, never wobbling over onto either for more than a step. It is a very easy movie to gush about as it is so ravishing, so flawless and while the minuscule sum of my ballet knowledge stems solely from Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, I’m guessing Black Swan is a pretty accurate process movie to boot. I love a film that takes you through the intricate workings of a particular job or a facility. This gives you an insider look at a dance company’s life cycle; from auditions to rehearsals, to fundraising to opening night. The hours put in, the repetition, the rivalries, the risks and the victories. The pressure! We see pumps torn, re-sewn and scratched up for traction, bodies flexed and gussied to attract the gatekeeper’s eye. You feel plunged into a very unique pool and the detail below the surface convinces for the entire runtime – bedlam and dark fantasy included. With Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder in support, this is exemplary. A pinnacle of classy horror cinema.
Perfect Double Bill: Repulsion (1965)
Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/