Black vs White in "Black Swan"

Black Swan (R) ★★★½

"I got a little homework assignment for you. Go home and touch yourself. Live a little." Thomas Leroy
That simple advice is uttered to Natalie Portman's Nina near the beginning of Black Swan. No truer words are spoken in the movie, which has many themes including that of sexual liberation. Nina is sheltered sexually. Her mother doesn't let her get out of the house at night and even when masturbating, Nina turns around only to see her mother sleeping right at the corner of her own room. It's a scene that shows just how imprisoned she's been in her life and how sexually timid the girl really is. At one point Nina is asked by her perv Ballet instructor if she's a virgin, she answers no but we know she's lying.
I don't know why it took me so long to write about Black Swan. I mean, it has been close to 4 weeks since I've seen it, yet its images still linger in my head and its finale absolutely took my breath away. I guess it could be cause it sometimes takes time to write about a great film. You need time for the words to come out to describe what you saw, in this case I was left speechless at the work of art I had just seen. I was in a dream like state upon leaving the theatre, it was as if I had finally seen the movie I had been waiting for all along in 2010. The movie that reminded me why I loved cinema so damn much. So much has been said of Portman's performance as Nina, which is incredible, and much has also been said of Darren Aronofsky's brilliant, visionary direction ditto Matthew Libatique masterful camera work which deserves all the possible praise in the world.

There is greatness in the Black Swan. I love the way Aronofsky splits his movie's first half into high camp only to transform it into horror in its second half. I love the intense expressions on Nathalie Portman's face as she struggles to master her art, I love the way the film knows it is influenced by high camp yet despite that fact becomes truly great as it goes along, I love the obvious influences to Cronenberg, Lynch and even Powell, I love the way Aronofsky means to fuck with his audience's head and does so brilliantly but most of all I love Black Swan for the sheer fact that it is a great movie in what has been very bad year for cinema. Oh, has it ever been a bad year (more on that when I publish my Ten Best Movies Of 2010 next week)

An interesting thing happens half way through the picture. Our Nina is at a bar and takes a spiked cocktail with acid that turns the film and the said ballerina into a complete schizoid nightmare. The change of pace the film takes -what's real? what isn't?- is triggered by Nina taking the drink and losing sight of her own reality. Schizophrenia is an illness that doesn't necessarily get triggered by anything but who's symptoms usually come out at their fullest extent when combined with a psychedelic drug. From that point on we are in Nina head, as it is shaken and woken up by the drug. The schizophrenia that has only been hinted at so far into the picture comes out and confuses the audience and Nina with a Lynchian dream-like state. Is what were watching real? or have we been put into Nina's walking nightmare?

Aronosfsky has made me believe again in the power of art and what it can achieve in its structures and ideas. As far as I'm concerned he has just made an awesome double feature alongside his 2008 masterpiece The Wrestler, both films are about artists that take the plunge into the deep darkness of their art. They are driven by perfection, yet are flawed in their execution. Whether it is ballet or wrestling, what Aronofsky is showing us are artists that bleed for their trade and physically pummel themselves until there is nothing left in them but the weight of triumphant death. We're lucky to have a movie such as this one out there to show us just how good movies can be, there can only be one word to describe it; Magic.