Black Swan (Blu-ray)
After watching BLACK SWAN I literally had to sit quietly and breathe as I digested the wonderfully beautiful yet disturbingly twisted story of a ballet dancer spiraling deeper into psychological doom. Admittedly this film is not for everyone, especially those who are easily squeamish or rattled by dark themes and immodesty but be prepared to listen to me sing praises upon everyone and everything involved with this remarkably focused and unique thriller.
Timid and insecure, Nina Sayers’ (Natalie Portman) precision and drive as a ballet dancer has achieved her the main role in the production of Swan Lake. The director (commandingly portrayed by Vincent Cassel) recognizes her talent as the elegant White Swan Princess Odette but is unsure of her ability to become the uninhibited Black Swan Odile. Another dancer (Mila Kunis) appears to be a better fit for that part and is competing with Nina for the role. As the two rivals strike up a strangely suspicious friendship, Nina begins to rebel against her obsessive off-balanced over-involved mother while discovering abnormal changes in her environment and herself.
To say the entire production is anything less than magnificent would be a disservice and I believe most of that credit belongs to director Darren Aronofsky. BLACK SWAN received Academy Award nominations for Picture, Director, Cinematography, Editing and a win for Natalie Portman as Best Actress but it missed Costume, Art Direction, Makeup and Special Effects. Some of these details are so well done that they unfortunately go unnoticed. Every aspect of this film is unfathomably good. The final production of Swan Lake is grand and beautiful with elegant costumes while the art direction is sophisticated and haunting with its creative use of mirrors and colors. The makeup and special effects, I will leave less detailed not to spoil some of the gruesome visuals that will make your skin crawl. All of these technical aspects create a world that I found not only thrilling but also at times actually scary.
Like many fanboys, Natalie Portman has been one of my absolute favorite actresses since she was a child performing in LEON: THE PREFOSSIONAL. Her portrayal as a mentally struggling ballerina preparing for her greatest performance of her life is simultaneously Portman’s greatest performance of her life. She embodies fear and control while undergoing a tremendous change as her character becomes more in touch with her dark side. Her entire movement as a dancer captures her character but the true talent lies all within her face. There is an early scene when Portman calls her mother from a bathroom stall. Watching the excitement turn to relieved tears as she proudly informs her mother of receiving the lead part immediately causes the audience to identify and care for her character. The range of emotions is miraculous that should be watched repeatedly as inspiration for any acting student.
The entire final sequence is simply breathtaking as we see Nina’s character in Swan Lake and Nina as a person achieve her transformation. Aronofsky has masterfully delivered his best picture yet by delving deep into a character’s dark psychosis and figuratively letting it play out in a production within a film. Exquisite in its parallels, BLACK SWAN provides a mesmerizingly dark and beautiful journey.
Video: (Widescreen 2.40:1) For the most part the picture is great utilizing different black levels but strangely some shots seemed to have been missed in the transfer process as they look noticeably grainy.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD) The eerie base notes and musical score are perfect through the surround sound.
Black Swan Metamorphosis (48:55): Divided into three parts this is a behind-the-scenes documentary with Darren Aronofsky. I would say this is about the only feature really worth viewing as it delves deep into the entire process combining all the elements that will be covered again in the others. The special effects segment is particularly impressive.
Behind The Curtain (10:28): Divided into three very short but detailed featurettes covering the Ballet, Production Design and Costume Design of the picture.
Profiles: Natalie Portman and Darren Aronofsky (6:04) Divided into two parts, these are fluff pieces where they each discuss the film.
Conversation: Preparing for the Role and Dancing with the Camera (5:28) Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman have a conversation about learning to dance and being aware of the movement of the camera.
Fox Movie Channel Presents (22:56): Typical interviews with the cast Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey, Vincent Cassel and director Daren Aronofsky discussing their characters and roles in the film. Like all the features on this Blu-ray it needed to be combined with a play-all button rather than divided for each actor.