Ballet is a gorgeous art – how the dancers can portray full scenes and narratives with just the majestic footwork and a swelling score behind them. But the practice ballerinas put into their work in order to reach that level of beauty can arguably be heavily detrimental to their own wellbeing. Black Swan was released in 2010; within the narrative of the film is the titular ballet performance around Swan Lake, with Nina (Natalie Portman) cast in the prima ballerina role of the Swan Queen. As her dedication for her role increases, over time her white attire turns grey and then black, and Nina slowly starts to envision herself becoming the black swan.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky who also directed Requiem for a Dream, the film mixes well-thought-out cinematography with rather disturbing shots of Nina physically turning into a swan, including picking feathers from her shoulders, broken bones and right up to the ambiguous ending as to whether certain characters survive. We see things as Nina sees them, which can make differentiating reality from the events purely in Nina’s perception more and more difficult as time goes on. The film is a psychological horror – and for good reason.
Black Swan was released to universal acclaim, with ratings on sites such as Rotten Tomatoes placing it amongst the best films of 2010. Natalie Portman won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for her performance in the leading role, and Mila Kunis received praise for her part.
Watch the trailer for Black Swan below: