This is the second posting for “Black Swan” one of my favorites in the 46th Chicago Film Festival. Directed by Darren Aronofsky it is explosive, searing, agonizing and prodigal in its conception; those yearning for the metaphysical, philosophical, dynamic, unusual will be gluttonously satiated. If you lust after the ballet, studied it, acknowledge its commandments, relish its punishments; you will be electrified, terrified and shed any romantic illusions about the glory of it all. There is also a macabre, vicious cruelty, a sacrificial element; the young dancers are crucified on an unforgiving, unrelenting stage; years of torture for an ephemeral moment in the sun.
Natalie Portman gives a searing performance as Nina; the metaphor for all ballerinas, she is imperial in her quest to rise above and beyond her sheltered childhood, naivety, shyness and vulnerability to attain the attributes of both the black and white swan. She has studied ballet and mastered its rigors and stamina demands; her flawless body enhances her performance; she dances most of the sequences (even suffered a dislocated rib), her double Sarah Lane, American Ballet Theatre, performs the challenging point work. She was trained by Mary Helen Bowers (City Ballet dancer from North Carolina); Benjamin Millepied was the choreographer (New York City Ballet principal). She triumphs, and Tchaikovsky would have melted with her devilish divinity.
Victor Cassel (“Mesrine”) is Thomas, the corps director; Svengali, royally mesmerizing, addictively seductive, rips, tears, rapes layers of insecurity and timidity from Nina’s interpretation, of the black swan.
Barbara Hershey as Nina’s pathetic, suffering, mother, living past delusional dreams through her daughter, gives a fine and credible performance.
Mila Kunis, is Lily, Nina’s prime competition and temptress; dances, seduces, gloats with cataclysmic guile and grace.
The dancing and music soar but “Black Swan” is flawed; there is a veneer of squeamish ugliness lurking, threatening to annihilate the validity of the fantasy; the dark, unbelievable horridness may push audiences away from the depth of the psychological trauma, dedicated endurance all dancers must possess to achieve the ultimate prize, center stage, the spotlight, and a playbill to commemorate their moment of brief, fleeting fame.