By Kaitlin McDonagh
From the opening scene to the finale, one thing about Darren Aronofsky’s movie “Black Swan” is clear: it isn’t your average thriller.
Based loosely on the ballet “Swan Lake,” the plot follows the life of Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a young, beautiful ballerina who desperately wants the part of the Swan Queen in her New York ballet company’s production. In order to do this, Nina must dance the part of the White Swan and Black Swan, two completely different roles.
Everything about her perfectly fits the role of the White Swan; she is timid, fragile, innocent, and her dances are perfectly coordinated. Yet in order to land the role, she must also embody the seductive, wild Black Swan, a dark role in which Nina has no experience.
After managing to convince her director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), that she has a sinister side to her, Nina lands the part. As the movie progresses, the audience slowly learns just how twisted that part of her is.
As Nina becomes more and more invested in her role, she begins to hallucinate violently and imagine scenarios that never happened. She becomes paranoid, believing fellow ballerina Lily (Mila Kunis) is out to sabotage her and steal her part.
Portman plays her role perfectly; she embodies not only the insanity affecting Nina, but also the personalities of the White Swan and Black Swan. Throughout the movie she completely changes, morphing from an innocent, timid girl to a dark, warped woman.
The changes taking place in Nina represent the differences in the White and Black Queens; Nina becomes so obsessed with perfecting her role that her personality mirrors it.
Not only is the main character dark, but the aspects of the filming and scenes play a large role in the disturbing atmosphere. There are no warm colors; every scene has a gray overtone, and the only light colors depicted are on Nina’s clothes, which are primarily light pink, white, and light gray.
The music and sound effects also play a part in creating a creepy tone. While the music of “Swan Lake” climaxes as the tension in the scenes increase, often the lack of music is what adds to the suspenseful effect the most.
Often in thrillers, the trepidation that builds in the music lets the viewers know when to shield their eyes from a frightening scene. In “Black Swan,” there is no music to act as a warning. The only clue is the sound of rustling feathers, which is frequently disregarded because it lasts for only a couple seconds.
The filming is imprecise and often frenetic, adding to the creepy, slightly schizophrenic atmosphere the movie takes on. When a violent image is about to appear, there is no warning as there often are in thrillers.
The multiple, complex layers of “Black Swan” leave no way to escape confusion; the film’s deeper meanings can only be reached by slowly sorting through each chilling, evocative scene.