Nick Schager Reviews Black Swan

Despite a shift from the squared circle to the ballet stage, Black Swan functions as a direct companion piece to The Wrestler, delivering as it does another portrait by director Darren Aronofsky of self-mutilation carried out in service of a personal/professional dream, and one told via corresponding sequences, final image and Dardennes-inspired cinematography. Rather than Mickey Rourke’s over-the-hill grappler, the artist/athlete in question here is Nina (Natalie Portman), an aspiring soloist with Lincoln Center’s ballet company who finds herself going over the edge while striving for, and then struggling to maintain, the lead role in director Thomas’ (Vincent Cassel) new production of Swan Lake. An intrusive stage-mommy dearest (Barbara Hershey) has warped Nina’s sense of self, but as suggested by the almost-inaudible sound of cackling laughter over the film’s title card – a sound that will reappear as Nina’s craziness escalates – it also seems that something deeper inside Nina, something more primal and unhinged, has begun to push her over the edge.

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