Sunday, January 16, 2011

Movie Review: Black Swan

One of the movies I got around to seeing over the break and it made me doubly sad that I wasn't able to see The Nutcracker this year. The last time I saw it (live) I must have been six or so and I was exicted to hear that one of my aunts had discounted tickets for it since my cousin was in it but with how crazy my Thanksgiving break was I didn't have a chance. Someday I guess, someday I'll be able to see a real ballet again in person instead of just having to watch stories about them. 

Black Swan

Summary: Nina is a rising ballerina who really wants to have a bigger part in the shows her company puts on. Initially it doesn't look like she'll get the role of Odette/Odile* since she's too sweet and too much of a perfectionist and it's only after she does that she discovers just how much her perfectionism is going to hurt her.

The Good: Wow, most movies when a character goes insane the movie starts with them behaving normally and then shows their descent into madness. Black Swan wastes no time there and starts with Nina already unstable and takes it the whole way. I can't remember the last story I saw that took this approach (the closet I've heard about is Satoshi Kon's Perfect Blue) and this was a very creepy and intense movie in parts. At points it was tricky to figure out what was real and what wasn't so the movie succeeds in being a physcological thriller very well.

The Bad: Once the fridge logic set in the ending felt a bit cheap. Yes I know the character is going mad/mad for the film and that this film is being “told” through an unreliable narrator but the film still has to make logical sense in the end (even if the character isn’t sure what is going on/presents a distorted version of the events there still needs to be a way for the audience to work out what actually happened). Also, I know so many people will disagree with me on this, but I must’ve been one of the few people going in who didn’t know about the lesbian sex scene and ack, most awkward thing to watch with your mother ever (and I’ve said it before, I just don’t like reading about/watching sex yet I’m only really annoyed by it when I don’t know it’s coming

The Music: I can't remember much about the music (I was too busy staring at the ballet) but I seem to recall hearing a few well-known pieces of classical music (I thought I heard "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" in there but, even though Tchaikovsky composed music for both of those ballets, I think I'm off). The music worked, I would have remembered if it didn't, but like I said above, I was much more interested in the visuals.

The Visuals: Interesting camera work in this one, the camera was almost constantly moving (and a little jerky as well, as if it was being held by a person and moving around instead of moving on a track) which also added to the tense and off balance atmosphere. I’ve heard that the long shots of Nina dancing where not done by Portman and, since I was looking for this and didn’t notice during the movie, that was very well put together. Portman’s dancing looked alright to me (it has been years since I’ve seen a ballet together) and, like the filming style, there were many little details in the background that added to the uneasy air in the film. Visually the film felt very put together and the movie would not have worked as well if it had been a novel instead.

I'm still not sure if I liked this movie or not. My feelings on it, well, it made me want to hide under a blanket with chocolate, something to hug, and something fluffy to read and NOT think about ballet for a while. The funny thing is that all the stories I know that involve ballet are more serious than lighthearted. Swan was melodramatic, Princess Tutu (which I am currently re-watching actually) had more dark moments than you'd except something with that title and, having done some dance during my life** it is a serious sport that lends itself well to these kinds of stories. So, while I'm unsurprised that Black Swan turned out to be as dark as I expected, and I know I'll rewatch it at least once sometime, I'm still trying to figure out if I liked it enough to buy or not.

*Who are traditionally played by the same person, this isn't the movie trying to create tension, this is actually how the play is done!
** More Irish dancing than anything else however, much more lighthearted, just listen to the music!

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