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It is easy to get interested in ballet dance: spectacular pressure and physical stress, emotions abound and all in all a ridiculous combination of high-level sports competition and way of artistic expression. It’s like movies about assassins or Barbarians: while I never wanted their job, I love watching them trying to survive. In ballet, this seems to be pretty tough, and next to impossible if the ambition is to survive beyond the age of 30. A slim chance for glory at a young age, followed by a life of misery as a teacher. The number of former dancers who make it into class choreographers or directors is, according to my own rough calculations, about the same as becoming a professional football player and being bright at the same time. Aronofsky seeks to show the pain of combining the desire for art and the masochism of practice, and he uses the example of a girl coming from the diligent side, trying to perfect the mechanics of the job. Forcing her to let go, to let loose and allow her inner beast some room is not too subtle a foundation for a movie, but it works quite well within the confines of a stage play that lives off black-white contrasts. The white swan needs to be able to be blacker, while the black swan (Mila Kunis, if I may, is much hotter than Princess Amidala) seems to do everything necessary to fake some whiteness. The head of the dance company, played by Vincent Cassel, plays with the clichés of innocence and sin, and is established as a cunning or at least careless manipulator (even though I cannot take villains with that kind of curly hair for serious, sorry … ).

The film is gripping where reality is messed with, when Natalie Portman’s character realizes that something is fundamentally wrong with her life or brain or reality. Some hypnotic scenes allow us to dive in with her into psychoses and desires. And again: her wanting to let loose, allow her inner demons to take over and make her a more complete woman … the images of masturbation and lesbian sex that Aronofsky finds may be pretty to watch, they are not too subtle (some said that they are rather the male fantasy version about of female fantasies … I tend to agree, but at least they gave us a lot of Mila Kunis!). All in all, it is the images, the cinematography and production design more than script or direction that makes Black Swan a special experience.

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