With the release of its gorgeous and spellbinding trailer, Black Swan has placed itself firmly atop every must-see movie list for the rest of the year. The new film from director Darren Aronofsky stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as ballet dancers in a New York City production of Tchaikovsky’s famed Swan Lake. The production requires the lead ballerina to play dual roles as both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. Veteran dancer Nina (Portman) is perfect for the White Swan, while newcomer Lily (Kunis) is the more appropriate fit for the Black Swan. As the two young dancers develop their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side – a recklessness that threatens to destroy her identity and sanity. The film also stars Vincent Cassel as the production’s artistic director, Barbara Hershey as Nina’s demanding stage mother, and Winona Ryder as the aged prima ballerina being replaced.
Now this feeble attempt at plot description (my words cannot do the movie justice) is rife with potentially dangerous clichés (friends as rivals, issues of identity/sanity), but the film’s excellent trailer should alleviate any doubts about the film’s setup or execution. Aronofsky has already established himself as an excellent director of several different genres and styles. His previous films are all terrific and unique – 1998’s Pi, an ultra-low budget sci-fi thriller; 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, an unflinching look at drug addiction and the impossibility of the American Dream; 2006’s beautiful, sci-fi romance epic The Fountain; and the heart-breaking redemption tale, The Wrestler (my favorite film of 2008). There should be no doubt that Aronofsky can handle any type of movie, psychological thriller and/or ballet included.
Aronofsky casts a dark, moody atmosphere over the film – the perfect tone for a film that appears reminiscent of director Roman Polanksi’s early horror/thriller films, such as Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Tenant or Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. The trailer’s editing suggests that the film slowly, but steadily builds tension/suspense and promises a several plot twists, while mixing a fair amount of sexuality and intrigue. Perhaps the best description of the film comes from the A.V. Club, which suggests the movie as “a bit like Single White Ballerina, mixed with elements of The Red Shoes and All About Eve – and, oh yeah, The Fly.” Watch the trailer below to understand why this unusual description is just right.
Several shots in the clip are spooky and beyond creepy. The music by composer and frequent Aronofsky collaborator Clint Mansell is pitch-perfect and foreboding, only adding to the overall eeriness of the setup. Portman, Cassel, and Hershey appear wonderfully cast, and despite my initial doubts, Mila Kunis looks more than capable of holding her own, even though she has yet to really established herself as a competent screen actress. All the pieces are in place for a great film that should play a major role come awards season and one that I cannot wait to see.
The film is set to premiere at Venice Film Festival and later at the Toronto Film Festival before being released theatrically on December 1.