Sunday, 23 January 2011

Nina, schizo ballerina

A belated Happy New Year, everybody. I'm back!

Boy, am I finding this month hard to get through financially. I'm willing to bet a lot of you are in exactly the same situation. Xmas shopping did drain the old cofffers although not as much as I thought it would; nevertheless it's still been a bit tight until pay day. Ho hum. Not as bad as all that. I guess the brand new car I purchased just before Crimbo might have had something to do with it...I figured it was time I traded in my old model for a new one and it was money well spent (I sold my Ford Focus and bought a Ford Fiesta Zetec, in case you're's in hot magenta and has ambient lighting!! Ooer. I love it).

Anyhow, even though spending has had to be reigned in, I managed to go to the pictures last night to see "Black Swan". I wanted to see what all the hype was about.

Very good and very creepy would be my summation. Admittedly it does take a while to get going and the real "horror" aspect doesn't kick in until about 2/3 of the way through....but worth seeing. For those of you not in the know, the movie concerns a production of "Swan Lake" by New York City ballet company. The production requires a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. One dancer, Nina (Portman), is a perfect fit for the White Swan, while Lily (Mila Kunis) has a personality that matches the Black Swan. When the two compete for the parts, Nina finds a dark side to herself and starts to experience elaborate hallucinations and delusions about other people and their behaviour. From thereon, things spiral drastically downwards...

Natalie Portman was excellent as Nina, doing the whole "driven but repressed ballet dancer" bit convincingly, hardly surprising, given the presence of her overbearing and controlling mother, played by Barbara Hershey (an actress you don't see much of these days but who I used to love in films like "Hannah and Her Sisters". Good to see her back, but what has she done to her teeth? Huge overbite or what...) Kunis, an actress I haven't seen in anything else, made a good foil for Portman's uptight Nina as her sassy ballet dancing colleague and the scenes where she takes her out to get her p*ssed, then drugs her drink, are entertaining (and then there's the raunchy shenanigans that follow...)

The horror aspect was well conveyed with several genuinely disturbing and unsettling moments e.g. the part when Nina's mothers' paintings all start talking to and mocking her and her eyes turn swan red. Not to mention the strange barbed black things that start poking up out of Nina's skin. Ugggh! I won't say any more otherwise there won't be any surprising nasty bits left, for those of you that are planning on seeing it. The psychological angle - are all of these things genuinely happening or are they in Nina's mind? - made the film gripping for me, and put me in mind of old movies like "Repulsion", "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Stepford Wives", even if the final revelation was kind of obvious.

My criticisms would be that the film has a rather unrelentingly "dour" feel about it and there's not much humour in evidence. The muted visuals/cinematography (there's little colour in there) reinforce this atmosphere but that's kind of deliberate I think - emphasising the harshness and claustrophobia of Nina's world. Every now and then colour breaks through e.g. the scene when a drugged-up/p*ssed Nina goes to the club and is bathed in red whilst a strobed light flashes - all very symbolic.

The dance sequences, in particular the final realisation of "Swan Lake" at the end - are pretty amazing and it's clear that Portman can do ballet (although apparently she's replaced in some long shots - still not as bad as Jennifer Beales in "Flashdance" who didn't dance properly atall. Pah!).

It really creeped me out and I want to see it again!

And it's made me want to go out and buy the soundtrack to the real "Swan Lake". Truly moving and beautiful music. Erm...oh yeah. When I've got some money.

4 out of 5.


  1. OK. I am now officially out of touch. I haven't even heard of this film!

  2. I liked your review. I ust don't think I can see the film - the ad is so spooky.

    Maybe we ought to buy Steve membership to ABC's Saturday Club.

    Frankly I don't care who did the dance sequences in "Flash Dance" just as long as it wasn't Gerri.

  3. Saw the film today and loved it. very odd but brilliantly shot in almost black and white!

  4. Steve - Go see, I'm sure you'd find it interesting (although it's not everyone's cup of tea). Actually it's the kind of thing that would probably appeal to Kate Bush fans, which I was just talking about on my other post....

    Barry - Thank you! It's true that the film does leave you with a rather unsettling unfeeling.

    Membership for Stevenage might be a good idea - Steve, are you listening?

    You mean to say you DON'T like Gerri Halliwell? How can you possibly say that?!? (Oddly I'm not her biggest fan either....)

    Nora - Eh up, chuck! Glad you liked it! Yes I agree it was very well shot.