Striving for perfection – The beauty of Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky is back. After he delivered the emotional comeback of Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler 2008) his cooperation with Natalie Portman represents three of his previous movies culminating into one fantastic experience.

The Wrestler meets Pi with the devastating effect of Requiem for a Dream. The movie tells the story of ballerina Nina who gets the main role in a reinterpretation of Swan Lake where both the white and the black swan are portrayed by the same dancer. After about 10 minutes the movie starts to head into insane waters as Nina begins to suffer from the pressure that she’s being put under:

The mother (Barbara Hershey) being an ex-ballerina who
retired because she wanted to have a child.
The director (Vincent Cassel) who abuses
his position to take advantage of Nina.
The former star and protégée (Winona Ryder)
who accuses Nina of sleeping with the
director to get the main role.
A co-dancer (Mila Kunis) who seems to
be after the role herself – or isn’t she?

What ensues is a two hour drama that (like Requiem for a Dream) makes you wish that the movie should finally end – in a good way.

Aronofsky uses his skill to intensify the paranoia and madness that takes over Nina. The story itself is probably as simple as it gets, but like the Wrestler this is nothing we mind. Even a guy like me who can’t really see the fascination in ballet (meaning I cannot imagine myself watching ballets on a basis as regular as I am watching movies and ponder about it) can at least get a little grasp on the beauty that lies within this art form.

Black Swan is a movie about perfecting one’s craft, to strive for more than just the ordinary, to for one moment in one’s life be more than a dancer imitating a story and this story only works because there are two perfectionists that are claiming the spotlight:

Aronofsky with his fantastic direction

And Natalie Portman delivering a performance that outshines every other performance I’ve seen this year (and if she loses the Oscar to Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right it will be for Oscar policy reasons – you know the kind of “Hey Ms. Bening sorry we haven’t given you the Oscar the last three times you were nominated”-policy).

Black Swan as a reflection of Aronofsky’s works:
The sheer intensity of Black Swan cannot be put into words, I can merely say that there are scenes more intense than in most horror movies, that there was plenty of emotion, but most of all this movie reminded me in so many ways of why Aronofsky is one of the best directors out there right now.

While I won’t say that Black Swan is Aronofsky’s best film yet (that honour would go to the Wrestler or Requiem for a Dream), this movie shows the improved craftsmanship of a fantastic storyteller. Black Swan takes ideas from previous Aronofsky movies and gives them a new meaning, but also enables to be linked back to his filmography to draw interesting comparisons.

The Wrestler:

Like the Wrestler Black Swan deals with the idea of selfdestruction for a higher goal. For a kind of recognition (or satisfaction) that people cannot find in everyday life. The Wrestler took this idea in terms of a man who had “seen the light” to borrow a worn out phrase but was now unable to find it without his former profession.
Because of his knowledge that there had been something else Randy “The Ram” was unable to enjoy his current life and despite all barriers sought out to return to his former glory.

In Black Swan the character of Nina is after a very similar goal, but whereas Randy’s obsession was mostly a choice with Nina it is also about the society and circumstances. Black Swan addresses a very big issue of how women are being treated by some men who are in a higher position (and this of course does not only apply to artists) and how they get cornered and the only way to fulfil one’s ambition seems to be by degrading oneself.

Requiem for a Dream:

Requiem for a Dream dealt with the theme of obsession/addiction and to me it is not a “drug movie” it is a film about addictions where drugs is one part of the bigger picture. In Requiem’s case all those addictions led to selfdestruction and left characters that had lost everything.

Black Swan deals with dancing as a destructive addiction, but like most movies about the thin line between mutilation and true art, the question “was it worth it?” is not as easy to answer as in the first case.


Pi as his first movie can with the rest of Aronofsky’s cinematography be seen as the “first glimpse” of something otherworldy. Basically all of his films share the theme of the unnatural that is beyond the comprehension of rational/mortal thought.

And despite the imcomprehensive experience this form of “enlightenment” is always reached by human measures – as if despite all our biological/neurological disadvantages we are still able to see things that were never intended for us to see.

With almost all his movies that moment of seeing something beyond the material is accompanied by suffering, tragedy and all those things we never wish to endure, ending many times in madness, death or worse.

In a way the immaterial power (that was very obvious in Aronofsky’s The Fountain) is similar to the stories of H.P. Lovecraft where if you glimpse just a second into the realm of Cthulu you see things beyond your comprehension and not being able to cope with that knowledge (see Pi).

But enough rambling, the bottom line:

If you have seen any film by Darren Aronofsky and liked it,
then Black Swan is definitely for you.

If you like movies with great performances (not only Portman, the entire cast is superb, especially Mila Kunis who I had previously only known as “girl form Book of Eli”
and “Meg Griffin in Family Guy”), go watch Black Swan.

If you want to prepare for Oscar season, watch this moviebecause this time
the Academy won’t ignore Aronofsky again like they did with The Wrestler.

If you enjoy good movies – watch this movie!

Category: 3
Score: Great

P.S.: Since I’ve managed to destroy my PC and this only has mspaint, I’ll be short on Moviequations.

Wolfgang Verfasst von:

Der Host des Flipthetruck Podcasts. Mit einem Fokus auf Science Fiction und Roboter sucht er ständig jene Mainstream Filme, die sich nicht als reine Unterhaltungsfilme zufrieden geben.

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