Black Swan has "Best Picture" written all over it in firehouse-red lipstick letters. If you haven't heard about it already, Black Swan is a female monster movie about a ballerina, played by Natalie Portman. I'm anticipating that this new genre will take off and that AMC will shortly debut a new series based on the ballet horror concept.
Recalling movies like Memento, The Sixth Sense and The Crying Game, Black Swan's narrative shape-changes as the movie proceeds. The viewer will find it necessary to revisit earlier scenes to determine what actually happened, and even then, reality may not appear clear cut.
Natalie Portman excels as Nina, a young, up-and-coming dancer who scores the lead role in a new production of Swan Lake. Against a background of intense female competition, Nina begins to unravel as she prepares for a role that could make her career.
The horror begins in mundane fashion, as the viewer is exposed to the physical brutality of the dancers' training. Bloody toes and routine stomach purging introduce the theme of sadism as a companion to beauty. Nina, in striving for perfection, continues the theme, with bouts of skin scratching, peeling and tearing, repeated late night practice sessions, and hallucinations.
About halfway through the film, the Cute-Little-Red-Headed-Girlfriend, who accompanied me to the theater, leaned over and whispered, "This film is terrorizing me." Later, the Girlfriend said she could feel her blood pressure increase every time Nina examined herself in a mirror, because it always meant something bad was about to happen. Looking in the mirror functioned like that scene in your average slasher film where everyone decides it would be a fine idea to split up.
Natalie Portman is to be commended for all that she has put into this role. I remember when Robert DeNiro altered his physique for the lead role in Raging Bull. The critics talked about him like he was a god walking upon the earth. Today's commentators don't seem to have the same respect for Portman's dedication to her role, but they should. The bodily permutations she has undertaken as an actor--months of ballet training, as well as dramatic weight loss--are vital to making Nina's story convincing.
Black Swan isn't just about female body horror. There are many instances where the female body and the extreme ideal of feminine beauty seen in ballet are showcased. I was mesmerized by the rippling backs of the ballerinas and mature ballet instructors as their arms imitated the movements of a swan. Also, be on the lookout for Nathalie Portman's breathtakingly muscular ass, or her quivering, flexing thighs in the first masturbation scene.
With its convoluted story line, I expect Black Swan is a movie that will benefit from a second viewing. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing this one again.