Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swan Lake Gets A Dark Makeover in "Black Swan"

The fairy tale ballet Swan Lake gets a seriously dark makeover in the new film Black Swan, premiering at the Venice Film Festival on September 1st. When you read the premise you have to wonder why they haven't done it before.

First of all, this is NOT a film for kids or even many teens. We're talking serious psychological thriller bordering on horror here. It's set in the world of the New York City Ballet company but isn't just a 'rival ballerina meets rival ballerina' plot. In this film reality and fantasy begin to blur until you wonder if there might be more than one way the lead Swan named Nina (played by Portman) is right for the role. A particular scene in which Nina pulls a black feather out of her back raises a ton of questions: Is she under attack by someone? The other ballerina? Her mother? Herself? Is someone manipulating her into thinking she's going crazy? If you know the story of Swan Lake, you'll instantly see how each of these scenarios is a plausible possibility and Director Darren Aronofsky explores them all.
Here's the official synopsis from Rough Cut Reviews:
"BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter's professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her."

If you Google for information you'll find the big buzz is not only about Natalie Portman's scary and dark makeover (and a controversial kiss scene) but also spotlights Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) and his penchant for portraying strong but conflicted women in eerie movies. This film definitely falls into that category. (See HERE for the Times article but be warned - the page opens with a scary image right at the top!)

Natalie Portman is indeed a ballet student and has been working and preparing to make this project a reality for at least the last decade, though I haven't been able to find much information on how much actually dancing she does in the film herself (though you can see her signed pointe shoes used in filming, below). With regard to the traditional Swan Lake dual role of Odette/Odile, which is explored at least in part through the film, it is a principle role and very demanding role.
So make the kiddies leave the room before you watch the trailer below - although you don't really see any violence, some of the images are nightmare-making for little ones (maybe some sensitive big ones too):

It's on my must-see list (combining ballet, fairy tales and psychological twists has me intrigued) but I have no idea how I'm going to see it before my toddler goes to preschool!

The official site is HERE.

The film opens in theaters on December 1st, 2010.
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