30 Day Film Challenge: Day Eleven

Posted on May 26, 2011


BLack Swan, 2011

A Film By Your Favourite Director

When I first sat down and read the list of criteria for this challenge, I deducted that I would most likely be putting three of this man’s films somewhere in the 30 days (which I have managed to stretch out to at least 40 at this stage, without being halfway through)


There are some (and I’ve seen plenty) who’ll argue that Darren Aronofsky simply makes the same film over and over, in a slightly different manner, style or background. It’s largely true of course – almost all of his films deal with the theme of obsession in some way or another, and almost all of the characters wrapped up in this obsession perish or end up worse off than they were but that’s neither here nor there.

The truth is that there are only something like seven actual stories in the world and it’s not the story but how you tell it and the delivery of it and the way in which the characters interact with each other. And I realise now that thinking over Aronofsky’s body of work, none of these things are that simple in his films.

We’ll take Black Swan, a superb film set in the New York professional ballet scene, full of darkness, an overbearing mother, a sleazy but captivating dance director, a crazed ex-star and Mila Kunis, god, Mila Kunis looking stunning.

Natalie Portman gives an Oscar winning turn as Nina, the sheltered late twenties ballerina who, after years of dancing in the corp. suddenly gets bumped up to the lead role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake– the dream role for any ballerina because it requires you to play two parts – one good, one bad.

But Nina is incapable of accessing that bad part – the black swan part and it is through a cocktail of psychological deterioration and sexual awakening, though the latter turns out to be a fantasy, that she finally does find the duality within her, albeit at a terrible price. It’s a film in which all of this happened but by the end you’re not really sure if any of it really happened at all.

Black Swan left so many more unanswered questions than any of Aronofsky’s other films. Nina’s relationships with the people around her were fractured, some of them plainly fantasised (THAT scene), some of them sinister (Creepy mother) none of them holding any truth whatsoever. None of the relationships she had gave her any sign of a way out of what was going on with her, providing any of it was really going on at all…

Where other Aronofsky films had you asking questions, they generally only had you asking one – in Requiem it was, well actually there wasn’t really much of a question. I suppose “Will they recover?” was one but the bleak ending made you think that they wouldn’t.

The Wrestler really only had one question, does he survive? I tend to think not. The Fountain was ‘what the hell just happened?’

Black Swan is a different film every time you watch it and that’s the beauty of it. You can watch it ten times and have ten different interpretations of what actually happens to Nina. The film flows beautifully, from the early meeting with Nina, clearly a nice, inoffensive girl determined to be perfect, without realising that in order to play the Black Swan, she has to let go and dance it with less perfection and more abandon, the way Lily does. After the arrival of Lily, we aren’t really what’s real and what’s not anymore. The arrival of a black swan sets Nina on the path to discovering her own inner black swan. And that’s what it is fascinating about this film and what Aronofsky has done with it.

Alternatively, you could just watch it once, take whatever reading you want and stare at Mila Kunis for the next ten vieiwngs.

Your call.