Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Swan

BEST OF 2010

I have always been a fan of the films of Darren Aronofsky. But, for some reason I never think to list him as a "favorite director." I feel the same way about David Lynch... great films, but I'm not always so sure about the film making. So, I decided to think of my critiques of Aronofsky through my viewing of Black Swan.

Black Swan is a black and white film. Basically. Aronofsky may take his desire to prove color reveals personality too far. Throughout the film, those who are evil are dressed all in black (Hershey, Ryder, Kunis). Those who are good are dressed all in white (Portman). Then, there are those who are dressed in black and white or gray (Cassel). And, for Cassel's character we are never really certain how much he is driven by evil and good. His clothes, his apartment, his office... everything is black and white. Aronofsky refuses to give us the answer to this character. This may imply Cassel is much more important than I may have originally thought.

Black Swan is a film about the image of the self. The very examined life. There is rarely a scene in the film where a mirror is not present. The ballet studio has ceiling high mirrors, Portman's apartment has a huge mirror in the front room, the dance floor is up against a huge mirror. Some of these mirrors are typical mirrors. What you see is a reflection of the self. Other mirrors cause one to look shattered, or grotesque, or unusually shaped.

Is this weak film making? To push a point (good vs evil, the reflection of self) too far? And, does Aronofsky really push it too far? Hard to say. None of these things were very distracting. But, at the same time, why do these things stick out so much upon first viewing?

For me, Black Swan holds so much meaning because I have seen The Red Shoes. The parallels between these two films are overwhelming. Cassel, Ryder, and Portman are all mirrors of characters (playing very similar roles) from The Red Shoes. Both films deal with obsession and the desire for perfection in art and career. Not to say these themes aren't common in many films, but one would be hard pressed to deny how strongly similar the two films truly become.

These sound like complaints. But, I actually loved the film. Black Swan is the feminine to The Wrestler's masculine. Again, these two films are so similar. The obsessive, destructive drive for success in one's career. Although, The Wrestler is certainly the stronger of the two films. I believe The Wrestler is one of the five best films made in the past ten years.

With Black Swan, Aronofsky has finally come the closest to creating the horror film he has so long been in the process of creating. Looking back over Aronofsky filmography (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler), so many of his films have elements of horror. Their intense struggle with the self from destroying itself and others.

Aronofsky's Black Swan is one of the most intense movie experiences this year. The audience is left exhausted, silent. The constant waiting for the final reveal. The film is well worth viewing. Portman's performance is magnificent. And, Barbara Hershey couldn't have played her role better. This is certainly a career resurrection for her, I hope.


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