Feathers and Ballet

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Image from The Contrarian


Let's talk about the movie "Black Swan," shall we? I saw it with friends last week because Whitney had an extra movie pass. I don't go to movies in the theater because I hate to sit still for 3 hours. In a theater you just can't multi-task. At home I can do laundry, blog, clean, etc while a movie is playing, especially if the movie isn't that great.

Back to the point.

"Black Swan" is a film that viewers seem to either love or hate. I dislike most movies because I find them boring. Some contain unrealistic dialog or just host bad actors. Swan Lake soars because it presents a moving plot, realistic acting and impressive costumes and makeup. The camera work was creative and modern and I was very impressed with the directing style (more about that later).

The main character is an en pointe ballerina with an overbearing, controlling mother. The character is used to being controlled and is meek. She starves herself and being to hallucinate under the pressure of getting the main role as the Swan Queen. When her choreographer comes on to her and coerces her to grow up sexually, she snaps and breaks out of her shell (pun intended).

Slowly, the hallucinations and dual personalities become more pronounced and before the last act of the ballet, she severely cuts herself with a sliver of glass while imagining she is stabbing another female dancer (who she loves and is jealous of).

The story of the ballet Swan Lake includes a white swan and a black swan. The white swan falls in love but her lover in turn loves her twin, the black swan. The white swan takes her own life in the end of the ballet because she cannot deal with the sorrow and rejection.

My take is that the main character fell in love/lust with the female dancer that plays as her under study. The dancer in turn loved the choreographer and men in general. The main character, played by Natalie Portman couldn't take it. She says, "This is perfect," as her last line because she was literally dying while she was theatrically dying in her role as the Swan Queen.

Natalie Portman is excellent as an actress. She was believable in the role and even her breathing made my heart rate go up. I don't know how she was able to get the fluidity of arm and upper torso movements for the ballet scenes in the movie. I believed she was a true ballerina even though major dancing scenes were wide so a "real" dancer could step in.

There was also clearly an en pointe dancer that helped the director with the details. I remember breaking my shoes in just like they do in the movie. We had to sew on the ribbons, crack the wood, bend the soles back and forth and would have very ugly toes from dancing on them for hours. The only detail I noticed that wasn't quite right was during a scene in the dancer's home. She put on her ballet shoes and tied the shoe ribbons while her foot was not en pointe (you are supposed to tie them while standing on them so the shoe will fit best while you are dancing on your toes).

The camera work was amazing. I don't know exactly how the scenes were shot but any time Portman's character was tense while walking to the ballet studio or dancing on the floor or running through her house to escape her mother, there was a camera just behind her that was also independently moving. It wasn't on a dolly or truck and it was "bumpy" which increases the intensity and made the viewer feel as though she's there. Good choice of technique!

I enjoyed the costumes, the makeup and the scene where the Swan Queen turns into the black swan on stage. She is dancing "with wings." In my opinion, this one is worth watching especially if you appreciate the arts and classical music.

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