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Black Swan (2010) Print E-mail
Monday, 04 April 2011
Image“Black Swan” comes from the mind of Darren Aronofsky and embodies the spirit of his past works as well as giving nods to other filmmakers of the genre, such as David Lynch.  The film is sure to spark controversy among audiences.  However, for those that are interested in this type of work are sure to love this film.  Others may find it a bit fruitless.

This is not one of those films that you can casually sit down and watch.  It cannot be viewed without thought or intent.  “Black Swan” demands your full attention, and for once some actual brainpower.  I know, brainpower for a film.  “Black Swan” is filled with deeper meanings and twists that make you contemplate on the story and images.  For many that are not used to a intricate film, it may take a few viewings to soak it all up.  Therein lies a problem, as many probably couldn’t give this film more than one watch.

“Black Swan” is beautiful and gruesome.  It isn’t filled with hacked up bodies.  It is not a slasher film.  Instead, this is a psychological thriller that easily removes you from your comfort zone.  Aronofsky masters the art of claustrophobia, keeping every scene tight.  The handheld camera work is very distracting, always causing an unstable moving image.  This only enhances the paranoia and fracturing that occurs in the film.

Natalie Portman portrays Nina, a dancer with the New York City Ballet.  At the start of the new winter season she is hoping to be featured more as a soloist.  Her wish is granted when director Leroy gives her a shot as the new prima ballerina.  Nina is to take on the role of the swan princess in Swan Lake.  Nina is a wholesome girl.  She is reserved and always apologizing for things that are not her fault.  This makes her perfect for the part of the whit swan.  But the role requires that she also portray the black swan, the evil twin of the white swan.  While the white swan is pure, the black swan is fearless and sexually powered.  These black swan qualities are certainly not Nina, well at least not yet.
The story is told from Nina’s perspective.  However, we find that her psyche is not entirely reliable.  She has a type of neuroses that takes the form of picking and scratching.  She is seen tearing flesh one moment only for everything to be perfectly fine the next.  Her sweet and innocent nature is succumbing to the dark side.  As an enabler, Mila Kunis portrays Lily, the archrival so to speak of Nina.  Lily is a liberal dancer and sexually free.  She is the party girl so speak and begins to drag Nina out of her shell.

Throughout the film we watch as Nina’s mind fractures and embodies both the white and black swan.  She is fighting for both but as the audience we are uncertain of what is fact and what is part of the transformation.  Eventually we see Nina taking on her own imaged evil twin.  This occurs through several “mirror disconnection” shots, as I like to call them.  In these types of shots the principal actor sees their reflection behaving on its own in the mirror.  This effect works on a several occasions, and ultimately leads to a key component of the film outcome.

“Black Swan” is hauntingly beautifully.  There are some “jump” scenes, but usually one is too engrossed with the complexities of the film for those scenes to really be unexpected.  The film isn’t without its faults, but nevertheless, the outcome of this production is highly stylized and worth notoriety.

Natalie Portman proves her worth of the Oscar she received for this performance.  She gives the audience everything needed to believe in her transformation.  Kunis and Hershey also deliver powerful performances.  The film is filled with them, providing even more power to the film.

The video quality of this Blu-ray is going to present some problems for many viewers.  However, let me try to explain what is going one.  The transfer itself is quite good.  It is generally true to the source.  The source is where the problem, so to speak lies.  Every film that you see in theaters is shot with a 35mm film camera or a really, really expensive digital camera.  “Black Swan” was shot with a 16mm camera and some “off-the-shelf” Canon digital cameras.  The 16mm camera effectively loses half the resolution compared to 35mm.  While 16mm is cheaper, the cost is a noisier image and lighting issues.  Despite the technical deficiencies of the 16mm and digital cameras, they were certainly chosen for a reason.  This is a director’s prerogative.  The film was shot entirely handheld, giving us a documentarian feel.  These camera choices are lighter and make handheld easier for the filmmakers.  The film does not contain that level of detail that we have come to expect from Blu-ray.  However, they are still quite good.  They do suffer when it comes to the darker sequences.  There, the details get swallowed by the increase in film noise and lack of light.  The darkness does not provide for excellent shadow delineation, but that was part of the filmmakers’ intentions.  However, for the cameras used, the colors are accurate as are fleshtones.  All in all, the Blu-ray is true to the source, but will likely fail to impress most viewers.

The audio quality nears perfection and is especially important in this genre.  The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track yields great immersive properties, drawing the audience further into that claustrophobic circle.  The rear channels deliver excellent ambience that is pinpoint accurate and hauntingly realistic.  The music score is effectively rendered here, with all the dynamics and swells perfectly persevered.  The score rises and falls nicely throughout the film.  This leaves the dialogue well prioritized with great presence.  The LFE channel gets it moment to shine during the dance club sequences.  The audio is delivered effortlessly, providing the audience with an almost realistic environment.  You very well could forget you are actually listening to recorded material.

“Black Swan” contains a supplemental features package on Blu-ray that is definied by one primary documentary.  “Black Swan Metamorphosis” is the most informative and best piece here.  This making-of featurette gives us information from all sides of the production.  There is a collection of “Fox Movie Channel Presents” segments, giving us quick backgrounds on four of the film’s characters.  “Production Design” quickly covers the film’s environment.  “Profile: Natalie Portman” and “Profile: Darren Aronofsky” give us some background on the two aforementioned persons.  “Conversation: Preparing For The Role” and “Conversation: Dancing With The Camera” are fairly self-explanatory.  “Ballet” gives us a quick overview and interviews.  The package also includes a trailer, pocketBLU and the promise for live features via BD-Live.  Disc two is a digital copy of the film.

“Black Swan” is not everyone’s cup of tea.  However, for those brave enough to give it a shot, you will be astounded by the performances as well as the immersive feel that the filmmakers are able to create.  The audio quality is terrific while the video quality may disappoint you if you are not familiar with the capabilities of the source technology.  I definitely recommend this title.

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