Black Swan: A review in tweets

Black Swan: A review in tweets

Saw Darren Aronofsky’s latest, Black Swan, last night. A run down of my thoughts on the film in reverse chronological order, as posted on Twitter.

The true skill of Cassell, Kunis, Hershey and Ryder is in their ambiguous depiction of Portman’s delusions.

RT @truphtooph It’s one of the few films where the first act drags. Really laboured setting up that white swan/black swan metaphor. #blackswan (Note: I disagree…)

By the time you reach the 2nd act it’s like a personal invite into the protagonist’s nightmare. #blackswan

Far fewer behind the head POV shots than in ‘The Wrestler’, but no less personal.

The end product is not only pitch-perfect, but perfectly paced. #blackswan

The delusions are uniformly terrifying and reality is consistently comic #aronofskysmind #blackswan

Postman wisely keeps the anguish high and the sinister undertones low. #blackswan

The moment of tragedy and the moment of triumph are one and the same. #blackswan

Darren Aronofsky’s wound fixation is one of the most powerful forces in modern cinema. #blackswan

Cassell can switch on the pantomime villain act at will and with skill. Excellent. #blackswan

The end product is not only pitch-perfect, but perfectly paced. #blackswan


What I forgot to say:

Form – As is typical of Aronofsky’s work, Black Swan builds steadily towards a powerful crescendo, wracking the tension up by degrees until the inevitable happens. Like an accident in slow motion.

Language – In terms of storyboarding (the language of film), Black Swan is heavy on ambiguity. Lots of fast panning, playing with reflection, slow POV shots that take us into scene with the protoaganist et cetera. All of this combines to create a heightened subjectivity- we are in the same world, imagined or real, as Nina. And, like her, we have to pick our way through it, working out what’s real and what’s not.

Imagery – Aronofsky doesn’t shy away from ‘look away’ moments that must be desigend to linger in the mind after the credits roll. Mundane, ordinary living is juxtaposed with crazy moments of magic realism, like spikes in an otherwise even heartbeat. The power of these images enahnces the surreal nature of the film, making us alert to Nina’s delusions.

Rhythm – The slow build towards the final act is a steady climb, interrupted by peaks of action and little explosions of tension. The film is generally steady in its development but avoids (in my opinion) being laboured in the establishing of that black swan/ white swan metaphor. (see Truphtooph’s RT above) The final act is a frantic exposition of plot that mirrors the mayhem of Nina’s emotional turmoil. It works incredibly well on both a narrative and conceptual level.

Tone – Surprisingly light actually. And in a number of ways. First, the everyday experiences that Nina undergoes are presented as mundane, with no effort to highlight any sinister subtext. In places humour is actively manufactured, with jokes and set pieces that seem intended to release tension and give the audience room to gather themselves. That said, the darker undertones of Black Swan are unwavering, unsurprisingly so in light of the plot. From the outset, we are presented with a character on the brink of an abyss, creating a tension that fuels the narrative. What I find interesting is that the release of tension almost sets the overriding tone for the film, making the final chapter as relieving as it is dramatic.

One other thing: Black Swan is incredibly sexy. Largely due to the simple fact that sexuality is a powerful element of raw, human instinct – an urge that we can only repress so far. The audience is frequently reminded of this fact in heterosexual and homosexual contexts, with sexual relationships contributing to the film’s sub-plots. And (of course) it makes everything a bit more sensational. Sex sells and all that.

Subject matter – NOT ballet, repeat NOT BALLET. Black Swan is about ballet as much as The Wrestler is about professional wrestling. Which is quite a lot actually (sorry to contradict myself, stay with me), but not entirely. The film is a deeply subjective character study that explores thmes ranging obsession, sacrifice and the power of the subconscious over the conscious. It also touches upon the impact of physical experience on the conceptual understanding of self. To this end, it doesn’t even concern itself with human relationhips. The people around Nina are less fixed, realistic characters than projections of her subconscious, so it’s not entirely useful to dissect their various interactions. So I won’t.

-Unseen Flirtations


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