Film Review: Black Swan [dir. Darren Aronofsky; 2010]

The current issue of Sight & Sound points out that the narrative device of the "duplicated woman is a largely male fantasy". Bear this in mind if you decide to watch Black Swan. Its central character - a ballet dancer whose personality begins to splinter whilst she's preparing for a challenging role - is basically an empty vessel, desperate to be filled by the affection of anyone around her. The camera lingers on her agonised face, making a fetish of every plaintive look in her eyes. And the story conveniently equates creative self-expression with rather dated and predictable ideas about sexual awakening, thus providing an excuse for some box-office friendly gratuitousness. Natalie Portman is terrific, rising above the material with a maturity I don't think I've ever seen her display. There are a few genuinely creepy moments and the special effects team deserves credit for its admirable contribution to proceedings, but ultimately this is simplistic, pretentious fare with clichéd characters and a finale that tips over into silliness. There is a right way to do high melodrama, but this isn't it.


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