Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Black Swan Review

Black Swan is a very strange film which plays on your phsyche and terrifies you not only through visualhorror, but also through your mind.

This lurid phsycho-sexual horror movie is like nothing that director Darren Aronofsky has made before.

"It’s rarely clear what’s real or not in ‘Black Swan’. Aronofsky’s approach to psychological drama – to making real the horrors of the mind – makes the likes of Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or ‘Repulsion’ look very timid. He doesn’t go for a gradual reveal of insanity. Instead, right from the off, we see Nina tearing off impossible amounts of skin from her fingers and hear awful cracks and snaps as she exercises her feet."
( Paragraph 3)

Here, young dancer Nina is cast in the production's lead role, and is tasked with performing as both the White Swan, and the antagonistic Black Swan. Although, while she is perfectly capable of executing the poise and grace of the former character, she is lacking a certain something when it comes to the darker side of the performance, something beyond technique, which director Thomas pushes her to attain.

"Thomas encourages Nina to admire the company's new ballerina: funky free spirit and Olympic-standard minx Lily (Mila Kunis), who helps unlock Nina's life-force with seductive overtures of friendship, and more. But does Lily simply want to steal Nina's role?"
( Peter Bradshaw, Paragraph 4)

The toxically close mother and daughter relationship is almost what some young people may be able relate to in terms of clingy parents, yet this mother takes it to various extremes. Her backstory is that she was once a ballet dancer, but eventually gave it up in order to have children and most likely didn't recieve the spotlike like her daughter does, being blessed with the main role of Swan Queen in her ballet performance.

Perhaps it is a form of jealousy that causes her to sabotage her daughter by tempting her to eat too much confectionary or keep her in her room, deeping her too 'sick' to perform.

On its most simple narrative level, Black Swan covers the strain of performance and the various issues that come from a love for the spotlight. However, Nina is a newcomer, and her problems  are all related to the anxiety of making a lasting first impression. Paranoia eventually gets the best of her, thinking that the previous one to fill the role, Beth and her major rival, Lily.

They both hold something Nina lacks, one, experience, the other, a sense of sexuality, as obviously portrayed throughout the film, and it is this latter quality that Thomas, through harsh, emotional manipulation, hopes to see on stage.

It is quite a surreal and shocking representation of the world of performing arts, and the impression of forceful directors is an interesting one, too.

The film, for the most part, is either shot close up to the character or over the character's shoulder, giving a sense of closed spaces and generally making the audience feel uncomfortable.

"As a study of female breakdown, Black Swan is the best thing since Polanski's Repulsion. But, in fact, with its creepy Manhattan interiors, its looming, closeup camera movements, and its encircling conspiracy of evil, it looks more like Rosemary's Baby, particularly in cinematographer Matthew Libatique's brilliant continuous shot in which Nina makes out with a random guy in a club, then wakes up to what she's doing and, freaked out, blunders through murky winding corridors and out into the night air – there seems no difference between inside and outside. Everywhere is claustrophobic."
( Peter Bradshaw, Paragraph 5)

The pursuit of perfection gets the better of Nina, who cannot handlethe stress of such a role. That seems to suggest an eventual breaking point, but Black Swan does not rely on cheap twists.  Instead, Aronofsky fills the film with unnerving, creepy moments, keeping the audience on edge as the tension mounts.




  1. Hey Tom,

    I feel like you're dragging your heels somewhat over these reviews. As Phil noted, your points are eloquent enough but still lack the requirements set by the brief in order to pass this aspect of the unit.

    In terms of quoting from sources and using the Harvard method these reviews are still lacking. I see you have linked to some websites in your Bibliography, but I cant see any evidence of them in your review. This is why you need to reference, so that a reader such as myself can trace back your sources. Images need to referenced correctly too.

    It's a really important aspect to university-level academic writing and you might as well get used to it now because its never going to go away while you're here, these reviews are a small part of a much larger picture.

  2. Tom - your mentor, Tom is right. I'm beginning to suspect that you're simply ignoring this aspect of your reviews (and mentor Tom is right - the experience of writing the reviews will build into an essential skillset that you WILL need in times to come).

    Read this next bit carefully - I want you to re-edit this review so that it satisfies the requirements of the brief; I want you to fix the formating, so that your images are not all over the blog template - and, if you're experiencing actual difficulty in understanding this aspect of your reviews then email me at and we can discuss ways to ensure that you do.

    Come on, Tom - I think you've been told about this a total of 4 times - which means you're making my job exceptionally boring...

  3. Hey Tom - well done for going back into this - but there's still more to perfect - principally using the Harvard Method to cite authors and publishing dates after using a quote - for example, you don't include all that bibliographic content in the brackets after the quote (that is what the bibliography itself is for) - no, you usually just include the surname of the author, and the publishing date, which you should be able to track down if the source is reputable; so for example, the Peter Bradshaw quote should be followed with the citation (Bradshaw: 2010). You certainly don't need to give the paragraph number anywhere! Please take a look at Meg's reviews for an example of how you should be using the Harvard Method in your subsequent reviews: