Saturday, 22 January 2011


There had been real anticipation in the Rees household about seeing 'The Black Swan'. The two girls were would-be ballerinas in their younger days, Nelli is a great fan of Tchaikovsky and I was enticed by the 5* reviews. Unfortunately the film was a disappointment.

Basically it's the story of an obsessive, self-harming ballet dancer, Nina, who is given a shot at being a leading lady but who cracks and crumbles under the pressures (largely articulated by the company's ballet master) imposed on her by playing the good/evil duality of the Odette/Odile role.

Okay, let's start with the good things...sorry, good thing. The single-minded nature of the Nina character is wonderfully communicated by the cinematography: it's all tight angles, full-face closeups and claustrophobic sets. The apartment the character shares with her mother is small and narrow, a great metaphor for the girl's limited horizons, and even the theatre where she performs is a windowless, sealed world. That Nina lives only to dance and allows little else to intrude is a subtle and understated undertone to the entire movie.

But cinematography aside, I didn't find much else to applaud. A lot has been made of Natalie Portman's portrayal of Nina, but whilst I found her a convincing ballerina (but then what do I know?) she was too weak and weepy to be convincing. Surely a girl as dedicated as Nina is meant to be would have had more steel about her? She might be obsessive but I would have expected her to be determined and assertive. I found it difficult to believe any ballet master would have cast her, she was just too much of a nonentity. Where was the putative prima donna?

The story too, which centered upon her embracing the dark side of her personality, was similarly unconvincing. Oh, there was gore aplenty - 'gross' according to Ellie - and a good few jumps to be had but somehow it didn't hang together. I had the feeling that the film didn't quite know what it wanted to be: it wasn't a horror movie (no film featuring a major star wants the dreaded '18' certificate); it wasn't terribly erotic (one coy lesbian scene does not an erotic movie make); and the 'psychological drama' tag doesn't work either (there always needs to be a sympathetic foil of a character to make these successful).

One missed opportunity: in the final ballet sequences - when Odile - was dancing - it might have been an idea to have shown how Nina's mind expanded and to have made this a surrealistic, fantasy scene.

Portman's portrayal of Nina was pretty one-dimensional too (it's all been downhill since 'Leon') but the biggest downer was Vincent Cassel's performance as the ballet master. This is one GREAT actor and in the past has done some notable work. This, unfortunately, was a by-the-numbers performance.

All in all a HUGE disappointment!

One good thing: Kit says it's put her off biting her nails!

Nelli's score: 2/10 (she HATED Portman's dancing and what the choreographer did to the dance of the cignettes!)
Kit's score: 4/10
Ellie's score: Gross!
Rod's score: 4/10

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