Black Swan is an artful visual work, the direction (Pi’s Darren Aronofsky) both beautiful and stylistic. The dance scenes are amazing, particularly those in the opening night performance, the camera taking one out of oneself for the moment and into the dancer. Aronofsky’s portrayal of Nina’s descent into madness is well done, the visual portrayal of her slow self-destruction both disturbing and absorbing. With that said, the tension that goes along with her torment does not build so much as it does remain unsettlingly constant until nearly the final moments of the film.
Even more beautiful, however, is the depiction of the artist’s symbolic giving up oneself for one’s art. Nina’s sacrifice reflects the sacrifice all artists experience in refining their creative endeavors—and also how all-consuming one’s art can become if taken to too dark of a place. Her mother (Barbara Hershey), who had given up dancing due to her pregnancy with Nina, is key to understanding Nina’s character, as her mental illness and need to continue expressing herself artistically (both clearly depicted by her childlike paintings) reflect Nina’s own journey as the troubled artist. Nina’s final scene is both beautiful and profound, and her performance is amazing.
My only two complaints are the pacing of Nina’s anxiety, which I already noted, and the erotic scene between Nina and Lily. While I appreciate the symbolism of Lily’s character, and the concept of her character thematically making love to herself is sound, the actual character motivation seemed a little lacking to me. The fact that Lily had dosed Nina’s drink with ecstasy only makes the scene partially forgiving, but without any prior indication that Nina might have homoerotic fantasies, the scene, as beautifully executed as it is, just didn’t work for me.
Finally, I must applaud the filmmakers and producers involved with this film for such a provocative ending. Black Swan offers hope that there still exists a market beyond the high demand for the happily-ever-after, and I give huge kudos to the people responsible for that. Because of such artistic choices, like so many of Aronofsky’s films, Black Swan is like fine literature on screen and I highly recommend it to fans of art house and alternative film.