Black Swan (2010) on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD
Ballet is competitive, and competition always has its dark side. Black Swan, a dark, complex psychological drama starring Natalie Portman (Best Actress Oscar-winner) and directed by Darren Aronofsky, smudges the line between reality and fantasy as it captivates the viewer. (Released on Blu-ray, VOD, and DVD March 29)
Portman’s Nina Sayers is a vulnerable, emotionally fragile ballerina on the brink of stardom—if she gets the role of the Swan Queen in a production of Swan Lake. A technically perfect dancer, Nina lacks confidence and is filled with self-doubt. After auditioning for the coveted part, she is convinced that she did not get it. After congratulating (and drawing the ire of) the dancer she believed got the part, Nina learns that she will, indeed, be the Swan Queen (which would be a good thing if she isn’t nuts).
Nina’s mother, Erica (well played by Barbara Hershey), is a former dancer who never got her shot at fame (or so she believes) because she quit at age 28, pregnant with Nina. The dynamics of Nina and Erica’s relationship are one of the more interesting aspects of Black Swan. At times viewers wonder if Nina will kill Erica, Erica will kill Nina, or Erica is a figment of Nina’s imagination. Erica is loving and over-protective; Nina feels suffocated.
There are tons of drama and did-that-actually-happen action between Nina and another dancer (Mila Kunis), Nina and her artistic director (Vincent Cassel), and Nina and a bitter, reluctantly retiring prima ballerina (Winona Ryder), all compounded with sexual tension. Since the audience suspects that Nina is a little nutty, we begin to speculate that she’s going to kill them all (at least audience members who watch a lot of gory, slasher-type films do). But is Nina the psycho, or is one of these people victimizing her? Maybe there’s more than one psycho…or maybe the stress of landing the starring role in a popular, well-loved ballet is getting to Nina. Whatever the case, Nina’s transformation into the Black Swan is breathtaking.
As for the controversy regarding how much dancing Portman actually did, who cares? She got the Academy Award for her acting. No, she didn’t do all her own dancing, and I’ll bet she didn’t actually bleed or apply her own make-up, either.