Ballet is arguably one of the hardest sports in the world. These dancers will most often than not commit their whole lives to improving their skills and advancing in the world of dance. This aspect of ballet is brought to life in the film Black Swan, where a meaningful art form meets mental illness. Both somehow, through the genius of the director, Aronofsky, tie together brilliantly in this movie and advance each others development. Black Swan was undoubtedly the most obvious and fair choice for Best Picture in the 2011 Oscars.
Told through the point of view of Nina, the main character, a 28 year old woman in New York with a dream for the role of the Black Swan. The intensity of the beginning where lines first start to blur leave audiences on edge and trying to keep up with an unreliable narrator. The exaggeration throughout was done so well that the audience can almost feel themselves questioning everything in the same sense as the main character. The progression of mental illness in this film is a well thought out and dramatic take even if the accuracy in the portrayal doesn’t stand up to most of the psychiatrists who have examined the film. Yet, the scenes that take place do not come off as an attempt to impress but a genuine look into the hallucinations of Nina.
Portman gives an unsettling portrayal of a woman surrounded by toxic behaviors not only in her personal life but her work life. The subtlety of child abuse makes the perfectionism and child-like attitudes add even more to the films depth. If there was only one argument available for Black Swan winning best picture it would have to go the talent of Natalie Portman which earned her a well-deserved Oscar for this role in 2011. It is no small thing to portray a character with such depth with so much simplicity and in such a natural way. Portman reported going on a strict diet to get her weight down for this movie. Such dedication cannot be dismissed by the academy.
Mila Kunis, as Lily, gives a performance that is surface-level interesting and talented as character who is both of those things. Lily is carefree, loose, attractive and has an untaught quality to her that the headmaster would agree makes up for her talent. Perhaps the slightly above average performance was an intentional decision that adds a blanket of authenticity to the story. Women who are attractive not only physically but in their mannerisms do better and go father. This movie is just another example and does a good job of scripting that unfair advantage. The movies social awareness just makes it an even more worthy candidate for the Oscar.
Barbara Hershey is a most believable neurotic and controlling mother whose manipulation has brainwashed Nina into a degree of submission. The cake scene was a subtle hint towards the unhealthy nature of their relationship. The most popular theory of the film is the mother’s, Erika’s, molestation of Nina. This widely accounts for the sexual insecurities of Nina as well as the stuffed animals, obedience, and name-calling of “sweet girl” by her mother. The hallucinated sex scene with Lily is nearly a confirmation of so. The tying of this element into the main plot was done so tastefully that the Academy is sure to appreciate.
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy, the sleazy director, gives us a villain. His harassment of Nina gives the audience someone to hate. While he acts as a sort of antagonist, he is also a distraction from Ninas other issues. While the main focus develops into Nina trying to become the black swan we miss the earlier cues of her mental deterioration through disgust in other areas like Leroy making sexual advances towards Nina. Eventually, these aspects become impossible to miss with amazing effects of physical changes like feathers, webbed feet, bone restructuring. Additionally, the costume design and makeup in the film is so decent and dramatic at the best times that it beats out all other candidates in the specific area.
The Oscar award for best picture is highly debated. Although, I think Black Swan was well deserving the overall production of the film is up to one’s own interpretation. Some have said certain hallucinations were executed poorly but this is all due to the perception of the main character. Sure the skin peeling may seem cheesy or the paintings on the wall talking and screaming a bit overdone but I hold strong in my opinion that it just added to the overall element that this tale is being told from Ninas perspective. All the right things are subtle or nuanced. Things aren’t supposed to make sense and they make you think. After all…that’s what makes a great film. The Oscar should go to Black Swan for its ability to make the audience feel crazy just as Nina did.