Re:View – ‘Black Swan’
Yes, this psychological-horror ballet drama is being talked about as an Oscar winner. Natalie Portman is incredible in it. The ‘You Are There’ camerawork which physically hurls you into a production of Swan Lake is immersive. And I thought it was ludicrous.
Darren Aronofsky is a director committed to actors’ vehicles, and this is virtually a one-woman show, with the emotionally frozen Portman shuttling between the flat she shares with her possessive, clinging mother (Barbara Hershey, channeling Piper Laurie in ‘Carrie’) and her brutal regime of ballet rehearsals, presided over by svengali-esque Vincent Cassel, who is required to outline the plot of Swan Lake to his professional ballet company in his opening speech and occasionally lunge his lips at ballerinas. He’s French, you see.
Portman’s playing the lead, but can’t find the Black Swan within herself to bring out passion. There’s no denying her astonishing commitment to the role, but apart from the dancing (of which there is an awful lot) she’s required to furrow her eyebrows and whine in a one-note performance that runs on the spot as Aronofsky throws ever-more lurid and gory hallucinations at her (including raunchy sex scenes).
Cassel tells her he’s staging an innovative Swan Lake, but what we see is a rather kitsch traditional touring production. Portman tears off strips of her skin, has sex with and kills her rival, but it’s all in her head. Or is it? ‘Black Swan’ wants to be ‘The Music Teacher’, but subtlety is thrown out of the window very early on, and this airless psychodrama plays out like the love child of David Cronenberg and Ken Russell, hammered home repeatedly by the overuse of the Swan Lake score.