Director Darren Aronofsky’s last film before Black Swan was 2008’s the Wrestler, his brilliant look into the life of an aging professional wrestler. On the surface the subject matter of pro wrestling and ballet couldn’t seem to be farther apart, but there are some similarities in the way Aronofsky handles both movie’s themes. These similarities combined, among other things, with Aronofsky’s fantastic ability to bring you into the mind of a person descending into madness make Black Swan a very entertaining 108 minutes.
Natalie Portman plays Nina, a brilliant but naïve ballerina is going for the lead role in a new production Swan Lake where the lead will be expected to pull double duty by playing the roles of both Black and White Swan. Nina’s sheltered existence and constant striving for technical precision as a dancer make her a perfect fit for the innocent role of the White Swan. However after being cast in the lead she is forced to find a more impulsive, sensual, and impulsive side to herself to fulfill the Black Swan role.
This transition runs so opposed to the world Nina knows that it wears away at her sanity. Just like Randy “The Ram” Robinson in the Wrestler trying to adjust to normal life where he is no longer cheered by thousands the feelings of awkwardness and even cognitive dissonance are palpable as you watch Nina find her more impulsive side. The feeling is especially pronounced when Lilly, a free spirited fellow ballerina played by Mila Kunis, is on screen.
Without giving away too much of the story away before you set foot in the theater I’ll also say that you should watch for how Aronofsky uses the thematic underpinnings of Swan Lake itself, especially in the plot’s resolution.
Very quick note: I love how the Wrestler and Black Swan deal with mental demands of characters who’s lives completely revolve around physical performance. This seems to be a niche where Aronofsky is peerless.