“Black Swan” Offers A Dark Dance
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Here on the island of Key West impresario Joyce Stahl has brought us annual performances of “The Nutcracker” ballet. Noted ballerinas from New York City have come down to perform, adding a degree of culture and dance talent not usually found in faraway outposts like ours.
If you like ballet, you will be fascinated by the new film called “Black Swan,” currently playing at Tropic Cinema. In this psychological thriller you find two ballerinas vying for the lead in a production of “Swan Lake.”
Director Darren Aronofsky was fascinated with the notion of being haunted by a double, doppelgängers they’re called. A white swan, a black swan. Two competing ballerinas. Dualism … or should that be duelism?
Nina (Natalie Portman’s character) has been waiting for years to take over as lead, waiting for the company’s star ballerina (Wynona Ryder) to step aside. When that time comes, she feels insecure as the artistic director (Vincent Cassel) pits her against a new dancer, a mysterious young woman named Lily (Mila Kunis).
You see, in “Swan Lake” the lead must perform both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan roles. While Nina is perfect to play the White Swan, Lily is more suited for the Black one. As their twisted friendship turns to rivalry, Nina becomes inexplicably drawn to Lily’s sensuous appeal. And she uncovers a dark side of herself.
Portman’s character goes through a wide range of emotions, enough to encourage Oscar buzz. “I think there was a great advantage in that Darren and I had started to talk about this film like eight years ago when I was still in college,” she says. “What he told me in our first meeting became what the movie ended up being. So to have that sitting in the back of your mind for eight years is a great help. It exists in your brain because you’ve been living with it for a long time, processing it when you’re not even aware of it.”
Maybe it also helped that Portman majored in psychology at Harvard.
“I think everyone has a little black swan in them,” muses Portman. “It’s just a matter of when you let it out. But, I would say I have a healthy balance of both, I would hope. I’m not nearly as adventurous as a black swan, but at times I would like to be.”
“My character is very loose,” adds co-star Mila Kunis. “She’s not as technically good as Natalie’s character, but she has more passion, naturally. That’s what (Nina) lacks.”
Who knew either of these young actresses could dance? Ballet is a physically demanding terpsichorean art, replete with aching muscles and sore toes and calluses that extend from sole to soul.
Portman says, “I did ballet until I was 12, then I stopped when I started to take acting seriously. Then I started again when I was 27, so there’s a 15-year gap. I did have a decent base, but the trainers that I worked with were all so instrumental in shaping all of that. I had the greatest people in the ballet world training me.”
Portman worked out for five hours a day, doing ballet, cross-training, and swimming. A few months closer to filming, she started learning the choreography.
“I was not a ballet dancer,” Kunis says. “I did ballet as a kid like every other kid does ballet. You wear a tutu and you stand on stage and you look cute and twirl. But this is very different because you can’t fake it. You can't just stay in there and like pretend you know what you’re doing. So, it was three months of training, seven days a week, four or five hours a day, before production started, and then during production it was pretty much exactly the same.”
“The thing about ballet that I never knew,” says Kunis, “is that it’s one of the most excruciating sports that I’ve ever been a part of. I say sports because they train constantly, every single day. Your body changes. Your shoulders drop, your chest opens up, and there’s a certain posture that I don’t naturally have because I slouch.”
“Black Swan” has already gathered plenty of headlines over a girl-girl sex scene between Portman and Kunis.
“Um, it was awkward,” blushes Portman. “You know, we were good friends before, but you do things for your work that aren’t comfortable all the time.”
Kunis shrugs. “Anytime you do any intimate scene on film, it’s going to be a little uncomfortable, whether it’s the same sex or the opposite sex. The great thing about this is that Natalie and I were actually lucky enough to be friends prior to production, which made it all a lot easier. We didn’t really discuss it very much. We just kind of did it. It made sense for the character. It wasn’t put in for shock value. It wasn’t something that we needed to justify in our heads, as to why we were doing it. That was it. The truth of the matter is that we were friends before we started the film, so that made it a lot easier.”
As a matter of fact, it was Portman who introduced Kunis to Darren Aronofsky, helping her land the co-starring role.
Natalie Portman has become a cult figure due to her role of Padmé Amidala in the “Star Wars” series. Mila Kunis came to attention as a regular on TV’s “That 70s Show,” before breaking into movies with “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Book of Eli.”
Darren Aronofsky’s big hit was 2008’s “The Wrestler,” a drama about an aging wrestler who continues to do matches because that’s all he knows how to do. Oddly enough, Aronofsky considers “Black Swan” a companion piece to “The Wrestler,” because both involve “demanding performances for different kinds of art.”
Yes, and WWE fans know that both are well choreographed.
[from Solares Hill]