Friday, 4 May 2018

Black Swan (2010)

Nina Sayers is a dedicated if rather tightly-wound ballet dancer who is in the running for the lead role in her company's new production of Swan Lake.  Unfortunately, while she is a technically excellent performer, she struggles to shed her inhibitions and embrace the sensuality that is needed to portray the Black Swan.

Enter Lily, a much less disciplined but also far less inhibited dancer, a newcomer to whom Nina is irresistibly drawn even as she grows ever more alarmed that Lily might steal the role from under her.  As the pressures mount, Nina's never strong mental health begins to suffer.  How much of what is happening is in her head?  How much is real?  What will Nina do in order to defend the role she desires so badly?

Director Darren Aronofsky previously examined the nature of destructive obsession in The Wrestler, and while the specific details of the two films are very different; ballet vs pro-wrestling, a young dancer seeking her breakthrough role vs an over-the-hill former star chasing the memories of his past; the themes are certainly similar.

Perhaps to some extent, which film you prefer might depend on which resonates more with you, but for me the nod easily goes to The Wrestler.  The struggles and mistakes of the protagonist in that film simply feel more grounded and 'real'.  With Black Swan, I was left feeling I'd seen this story done, and done better, before.

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