THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 78: THE BLACK SWAN

by Laurent Kelly


The Black Swan (2010)  – Director: Darren Aronofsky  Screenplay: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John L. Mcloughin Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassell, Milna Kulnis, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey

Black Swan is a riveting, psychological drama driven to greatness by Natalie Portman’s astounding lead performance. As Nina, she captures the intense frailty of her life as a ballerina and through her inner turmoil the film asks its first question as to whether or not the glamurous lifestyle is really worthwhile. After all underneath the beautiful facade of her movements on stage there is a damaged, underconfident and paranoid woman who has a past of self-harm and definite emotional issues. In spite of her talent we see her as an unhappy individual and a true object of sympathy and it is credit to the film that the intense nature of showbusiness and performance seems genuine and not cliched.

When Nina earns the lead role in an important stage production in Mark Tachovsky’s The Black Swan we anticipate that the pressure will only escalate and intensify and sure enough the second half of the film becomes a dark, convincing melodrama as Nina struggles to cope with the demands and significance of her role. What begins to take place is a young woman’s dark transformation which guides her towards an ultimately tragic quest for perfectionism.

The most impressive quality about Aronofsky’s film is that is is able to maintain a stylistic elaborateness whilst never forgetting that cinema is a character driven medium and unlike a number of films of a similar vein The Black Swan never degenerates into self-indulgence or becomes too dramatically overbearing.

Instead the film expertly introduces and explores the ballet arena absorbing the audience into the cut-throat pressures of stage life before allowing its lead character to carry the weight of this conflict.  This requires a great performance from the lead actress and thankfully Portman is more than up to the task as she eventually lives up to the promise that she showed all the way back in the mid nineties with her astonishingly mature performance in the film Leon. She demonstrates the type of detailed and empathic, emotional depth which truly makes us care about her character’s fate and in a film of this nature that is quite a rare treat indeed.

Overall The Black Swan is  an emotional roller-coaster ride – thrilling, artistic, stylistic, scary, sad and most importantly of all; convincing and layered throughout.

DID YOU KNOW? The script took ten years to make it to the screen.

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2 responses to “THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 78: THE BLACK SWAN

  1. One of the best films of 2010? Absolutely. But one of the best of all time? It seems a little premature – maybe it’s just me, but I feel that a film should wait at least five years before it can be considered to have an impact beyond its initial year of release.

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