ByStephen Hampton, writer at
Lover of horror and 80's divas.
Stephen Hampton

I shall never forget the first time I saw Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan on the big screen. I felt so dizzy when I walked out as I felt like I had just been living the film. I really love it when films become more of an experience, so you feel totally immersed, much like David Lynch’s Inland Empire, Black Swan is an immersive piece of cinema. As the screen beautifully faded to white I felt like I had just witnessed the greatest film ever made, and I still feel that way about it now. Obviously Sweeney Todd is up there too, but Black Swan is pretty much on par (if you didn’t already know, I love Sweeney Todd!). However, Black Swan isn’t really talked about as much as it deserves to be. The Dark Knight, which is admittedly a masterpiece and one of my all time favourite films, is always talked about for instance and I believe Black Swan should be regarded as a modern classic, just like The Dark Knight. So without further ado, I shall put to you my 5 reasons why Black Swan is quite simply... Perfect (but this really isn’t in any order, so it’s not really a top 5 list at all... Whoops :S).


Black Swan has a real array of talent and surprising talent. Who would have known that Natalie Portman could be an absolutely astonishing actress? Of course Darren Aronofsky (or Daz for short) is known for bringing out the best in his actors (ala Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler and Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For a Dream) but who knew that Natalie could really act like *that*! I can pretty much guarantee that Black Swan will be her best performance forever more. She leaves herself at the door and becomes Nina Sayers in every fibre of her being. The trouble with being attractive is that you’re shoved into a lot of crappy rom coms like, No Strings Attached, so poor old Natalie will probably never get a meaty role like Nina again. The same can be said for the wonderful Mila Kunis who gives it her all as the seductive black swan; who is everything Nina aspires to be. And let’s not forget the rest of the dreamy cast which includes Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey who hams up her role magnificently as Nina’s clingy and loopy mother. The solid acting in Black Swan only serves to enhance how immersive the film is.


When Black Swan finishes I’m always left humming Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which has been beautifully re-done by music maestro and frequent Aronofsky collaborator, Clint Mansell (what sort of name is Clint?). The music is such a prominent part of Black Swan and it really is chills-inspiring. Nina’s magnificent performance in the finale is only enhanced by the rousing orchestral score. It’s also clever how music from Swan Lake is played throughout the film to convey how the production is seriously taking over Nina’s life.


The entire final 20 minutes of Black Swan is probably the finest piece of footage ever committed to film. It’s completely: electrifying, dizzying, dazzling, visceral, tragic, hypnotic and many other superlatives. The film is essentially one big build-up to the production’s opening night and when it finally arrives, we feel as nervous as Nina does. However, it’s the nightmarish visuals which Darren puts on display that really intensifies the action. Instead of fighting her hallucinations, Nina completely embraces them and becomes a different character altogether which is a really powerful thing to witness. Seeing Nina perfectly twirling round and literally transforming into a swan before a dazzling spotlight is one of the most beautifully bizarre images I’ve seen. The way the film ends (which I won’t spoil) and the final line are also powerful and really searing stuff.


Darren Aronofsky already proved he was in the running for being one of the greatest directors of all time with the dizzyingly tragic, Requiem for a Dream. However, with Black Swan he pretty much confirms that statement. The film is shot almost like a documentary with grain that gives the film a raw and realistic look and could also reflect Nina’s delicate mental state. The handheld camera is often used in long takes and stuck behind characters to make the audience feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic, which is a good thing! The surrealism is always marvellously handled to really make you get inside Nina’s damaged mind. The finale’s sheer intensity is also reflected through Darren’s directing which gracefully faces the action head-on by following Nina’s every move. It’s an intensity that could never be achieved through fixed shots and quick-cutting. There are also lots of subliminal images, all relevant to the story which shows just how much attention to detail has been payed on this film. Don’t believe me? Just watch the strobe night club scene frame by frame...


Arguably the most important aspect of any film is the story and it just so happens that Black Swan has a gripping yarn to tell. It explores many themes, from mental illness to self-mutilation and yet somehow manages to balance them perfectly in relation to our hero, Nina. It’s also mind-numbingly clever how the whole film itself is loosely based on the ballet of Swan Lake with Thomas Leroy being the Prince, Lily being the Black Swan etc. Nina so desperately wants to be in the production, yet she’s living the story herself... Or is she? Black Swan also leaves lots of room for interpretation as it’s not always clear what actually occurs and what is merely in Nina’s crazed head which allows the audience to make up their own decisions.

So why haven’t you seen Black Swan yet? Is it because it’s about ballet? Well I can tell you that I don’t give a fig about ballet, but Black Swan makes you care. It’s a stupendously exceptional character study which takes you on a mad, dizzying and dazzling journey into the psyche of a damaged and obsessive woman. It’s the type of film that plays on your mind long after it has finished. It’s been playing on my mind for a good three years now! The ironic thing is that Black Swan is all about the quest for perfection, yet the film itself is perfect. Black Swan is a real masterpiece for the ages. A biazzare, visceral and very intense treat! Agree or disagree? Comment below and let me know!


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