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Black Swan
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
USA, 2010
Cornerhouse, 22 January 2011

Still from Black Swan

Still from Black Swan

It is rare to find a film as rich in meaning as Black Swan.

What is especially noteworthy is the way in which it melds reality and the psychological state of a disturbed yet gifted young woman.  Nina (Natalie Portman) wants to be the perfect ballerina and she sees self-harm, punishment and deprivation as stepping stones towards that goal.

In the film, you are quite often unsure whether what you are seeing is actually happening or is simply the outpouring of Nina’s porous, paranoid psyche.  She excels in the role of the White Swan, a role which requires perfect technique and great self-control.  Her whole life has been a preparation for this performance, you could say.  But her attempts to master the role of the Black Swan flounder; she cannot abandon or surrender the control that she has built up over a lifetime.  In time, her efforts to dance the Black Swan precipitate a breakdown.

We are in the territory of the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of art, Jung’s notion of the shadow, technos and poesis, good and evil, and so on.  Although it should be said that Aronofsky treats all of this with a gentle touch.

Some of the scenes are a little over the top, perhaps, and overall it is somewhat perplexing on a first viewing, but what film worth its celluloid wasn’t that?  Thought-provoking and beautifully made, Black Swan could also be regarded as a superior chick flick; there is only one male character of note.

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