It's a movie about ballerinas, but it's got more bite than True Blood.
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) wants to play the Swan Queen so badly, she's willing to do...well, not much to get the part. The girl is meek, mild, barely speaks above a whisper, and still has her mommy change her clothes for her and tuck her in at night as her overly large and disturbing array of stuffed bunnies and teddy bears look on.
Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), head of the New York dance company in which Nina studies, knows the can play the innocent and pure White Swan, no sweat. But drawing the raw sexuality and manipulative nature of the Black Swan from her is a challenge. Still, after a very brief but “sharp exchange” (remember my True Blood reference?) between the two, Nina's name appears at the top of the list. She will play the Swan Queen.
Lily (Mila Kunis) is the company's newcomer – fresh from uninhibited San Francisco. Lily has that raw sexual fire that Nina lacks, and soon becomes a threat (in Nina's mind).
For those expecting a pretty, fluffy depiction of the world of dance, you'd best take your buttered popcorn and go rent Center Stage. This is a twisted, guttural, probably very realistic journey into the mind of an aspiring (if very tormented) prima ballerina.
In a world where anything short of perfection means death, Nina begins to come apart at the seams (sometimes literally) in her quest for sublimity. As she desperately claws to achieve technical perfection, her dark side, her black swan, threatens to come out and play dirty. Though she instinctually suppresses that animalistic and instinctual drive that exists within us all, she wants it to come out. She wants to be perfect.
Ultimately, her obsession with control and greatness makes her shine and suffer.
Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) displays in gritty form his vision of the torn, tortured, and often nightmarish mind of a ballerina so that we feel what Nina feels. Through gory, disturbing visuals of Nina actually becoming the Black Swan, we are able to experience the darkness she lives with.
Whether it's her mother (Barbara Hershey), aging ballerina Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), Lily, or Thomas, Nina's obsessive, controlling nature and her desperation to be perfect taunt her in a self-destructive way. It's a hard road to travel for glory.
Aronofsky's second instalment of three reported films that are meant to explore the psyches of athletes' (The Wrestler was the brilliant first chapter) is a chilling, gripping film that will stick with you. I can't wait for number three.