Black Swan

CHLOE MASHITER is in two minds about this exploration of dual personalities. How fitting.

Ballet black swan Chloe Mashiter Film golden globes mila kunis natalie portman oscars

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, showing at the Vue cinema at The Grafton at 19:20 and 21:30, from Friday 21st January


Make no mistake: Black Swan is a stunning film. Aronofsky has an impressive catalogue of visually striking, emotionally affecting films and preserves that track record with his latest offering. However, the movie also comes with the vague regret you’d associate with a one-night-stand: sure, it felt amazing at the time, but with hindsight you suspect it wasn’t half as impressive and satisfying as it first seemed.

The film follows Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballet dancer who is offered her dream roles: both the virginal white and sensual black swans in Swan Lake. However, a tempestuous relationship with her director (Vincent Cassel), paranoia over rival Lily (Mila Kunis) and a mental state already as unstable as a fat kid on a pogo stick leads to Nina fighting for her sanity and more.

There’s very little to say about the performances, as they are uniformly wonderful. Portman’s already scooped a Golden Globe for this flick and may well have a tiny golden statuette on her mantelpiece by the end of February, thanks to her enviable ability to transform seamlessly from frigid perfectionist to passionate seductress, cutting an incredibly eerie figure at the film’s climax. Cassel and Kunis are likewise strong, and Winona Ryder pops up infrequently in a gloriously ominous, wide-eyed turn.

But, as hinted, there’s something missing from the film. The nigh-on monochrome publicity poster is perhaps unintentionally telling in the significant lack of any grey areas. Black Swan desperately cries out for far more ambiguity than it’s allowed; we never feel that Nina’s paranoia, fear, physical transformations and briefly glimpsed doppelgangers are anything other than a product of her tortured psyche. Everything feels too heavily and distinctly signposted, whether it is the simplistic juxtaposition of Nina’s reserve and Lily’s passion (mirroring the white and black swans) or Ryder’s madness and self-destruction, foreshadowing Nina’s downfall.

It is simply a shame that this film, allowing for a little is-she-isn’t-she tension surrounding Nina’s insanity, could have been so much more interesting. That’s not to say that it isn’t already, but the feeling of so much unrealised potential in the exploration of madness is itself maddening.

As you’d expect from pairing Aronofsky with ballet, Black Swan is beautifully shot in a fantastically theatrical style, and is picking up accolades with such ease and speed you’d be forgiven for thinking they were drunk freshers. But with every mystery in this psychological thriller resolved by the climax, it leaves a sense of disappointment that’s hard to shake.