Sunday, 23 January 2011

Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the fairest Swan of all?

Black Swan is a deliciously twisted film, and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much.

The story is simple enough: ballerina Nina Sayers can easily dance the White Swan role in Swan lake, she's innocent and graceful. But to claim the part she must also dance the Black Swan, a role that demands sensuality. Her director tells her to explore the wilder side of life, which she does with a rival dancer who is also after the role. Sexual awakening and madness ensue. Fade to black.

The way this story is told is utterly compelling. The camera work moves from steadicam swirliness on the ballet stage to hand held shaky close ups following Nina around her world documentary style. And everywhere you go there are mirrrors and relfections to show every possible angle of what's happening on screen, and in Nina's fractured mind. The only beauty is the ballet itself, everything and everyone else is slightly dark, disfigured and potentially destructive.

Of all the relationships in the film, it's the horrifically dysfunctional one of mother and daughter that brings a new level of nasty to what could have been a typical psychological thriller. Barbara Hershey is brilliant as Nina's mother, a has-been ballerina who keeps her daughter in a prepubescent bubble of pink toys and strict bedtimes. Her abusive cosseting makes Annie Wilkes seem like the perfect babysitter.

And then there are the bodyshock moments. Bloody finger nails, cracking bones, webbed feet, black feather shards emerging from Nina's back... David Cronenberg would be proud. Nina's physical transformation into the Black Swan on stage is incredible to watch.

This film will divide people - you'll either love it or think it was a waste of your time. I'm looking forward to seeing some references in Family Guy, since the voice of Meg has been on the big screen girl-on-girl style with Queen Amidala...

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