Saturday, May 31, 2014

3 (+1) Short Paragraphs: Black Swan

2010, Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) -- Netflix

The young boy wakes up from his bedroom hidden in the back of the basement. It is long after his parents have crept off to bed and the TV room at the foot of the stairs is shadowed, the only light coming from the flashing 12:00 of the VCR. The boy pulls the TV On switch, quickly turns the volume down and switches channels until he finds a late night movie. Illicit but not blue. Beyond his ken but enthralling. Dramatic and alluring.

I watched a lot of movies this way when I was young, half understanding their meaning but often getting wrapped up in their tones, especially those heavy 70s dramas, full of style and cinematography. They were relegated to post-midnight airing, not always because they had nudity but because there was probably no prime time audience. And despite its Oscar attention, I feel that is when I would have caught this movie if it had been release in the 70s, as it carries a memory of movies past. It is almost always pregnant with meaning and intent, menacing and haunting. The parallels to the dramas behind ballet is intentional and enhanced by Aronofsky's tone.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a second-string ballerina always trying to please mama and get ahead in her New York ballet company. When the company puts on a radical vision of Swan Lake, she gets her chance. But she has to divest herself of the sweet, innocent demure thing she is and become the Black Swan, a temptress and betrayer. Already sliding into madness because of her mother, she dances us through her nightmares and hallucinations until she gets exactly what she wants.

I felt uncomfortable for her, watching her, almost immediately convinced I should be watching this with the volume low and all the lights off. I watched immaculate Natalie Portman play a swan with a broken wing not really a bad girl but with bad girl circumstances.  She is repressed, mentally abused by her mother and almost always afraid. With fantastical imagery (all around her metamorphisis into the character she is seeking to emulate) smacking more of Malefecient than a ballet drama, we experience a surreal performance from her mind, so much that the actual ballet performance is mundane. She learns to let go, to become the characters she needs to be but at great cost to her stability.

P.S. A perfect alternate fan made poster by Conzpiracy.