Black Swan is a psychological thriller that suggests that for art to be perfect, the artist has to be willing to die for it, literally.
Natalie Portman puts in a stunning (and award winning) performance as ballerina Nina, who, becomes so obsessed with perfecting her dancing technique that it drives her mad. Once she gets the dualistic Swan Queen role in a production of Swan Lake, the artistic director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), pushes her to let go of her nice-girl persona and obsession with her dancing technique so she can fully inhabit the nasty Black Swan role. Nina struggles with this for most of the film, losing herself to her perfection complex and unnoticed aspects of the Black Queen role.
Director Darren Aaronosfky (Requiem for a Dream) uses a lot of subtle imagery to suggest Nina’s stresses and her slow transformation into the role, such as her nervous itching and discovery of black feathers underneath her scratching wounds. Aaronofksy has a knack for getting into his characters’ heads and portraying this on film, and Black Swan is no exception because he encourages viewers to fully embrace Nina’s struggles and psychosis as real. The striking soundtrack amplifies this.
Mila Kunis’ performance as Lily, the friend who leads Nina astray from her rigid routine and controlling mother, as well as Nina’s seductive nemesis during her madness, is very compelling. Moreover, Barbara Hershey plays a fantastic perfectionistic and controlling mother.
Overall, Black Swan is an enthralling and intense film experience that reflects on the toll creating great art can have on the artist. I highly recommend it.