That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Black Swan

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 11:31 am—Film

Black Swan (USA 2010, Drama/Thriller), Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin; Director: Darren Aronofsky

It looks like I’m going to have eat my words a bit as far as Black Swan is concerned. Or at least chew them a little longer before spitting them out.

If you read my teaser about Black Swan and 127 Hours, you’ll see that I’m a fan of director Darren Aronofsky’s and that I was looking forward to his treatment of psychological and physical deterioration in the world of the New York City ballet. In that regard, Black Swan didn’t disappoint. It’s an extremely visual film, and Aronofsky achieves many beautiful, even poetic moments. But its script is fairly unsubstantial, and the end result for me was an underdeveloped storyline with two-dimensional characters.

It doesn’t take much of a leap to see why the rigid, punishing life of a ballet dancer could easily lead to self-destruction. But too much of what Nina (Natalie Portman) puts herself through is left unanswered or unexplained. As she spirals further out of control in her quest for perfection—desperate to master both the innocent white swan and the dangerous black swan that are required of her performance—the movie starts to feel increasingly contrived.

Aronofsky has explored similar subject matter in previous films with far greater success. The Wrestler worked because its treatment of Mickey Rourke’s wrestler was clearer and less abstract than Portman’s Nina. Requiem for a Dream took its characters to some dark, confusing places, but it made sense given that they were heroin addicts. Because Nina’s turmoil isn’t fully examined or justified, Black Swan comes across as melodramatic and gratuitous.

Throughout Black Swan, I was reminded of David Lynch’s brilliant film Mulholland Drive. Both movies combine dream, fantasy and reality to explore the main character’s psyche and portray her contradictions and inner conflicts. But with Mulholland Drive, confusing though it can be, everything makes sense. If you study the film, or even read its breakdown online, everything ties up neatly. There’s a satisfaction in that. By contrast, Black Swan feels messy and unfulfilling.

Aronosfky’s direction is great, so if you want to see stunning shots and sequences accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s music, there’s something to be gained from watching Black Swan. Portman is also a highlight, giving a very controlled performance that somehow manages to portray extreme intensity with an incredibly delicate touch. But all in all, I’m underwhelmed by Black Swan.

2 Responses

  1. Caitlin

    Interesting that you found similarities to Mulholland Drive…. I will have to check this one out sometime to see how I can follow its interpretation of the dream sequences.

  2. amanda

    Thanks Cait! It’s heavier on the hallucinations and psychosis than the dream sequences… Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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