Saturday, August 21, 2010

Swan Lake Gets A Dark Makeover in "Black Swan"

The fairy tale ballet Swan Lake gets a seriously dark makeover in the new film Black Swan, premiering at the Venice Film Festival on September 1st. When you read the premise you have to wonder why they haven't done it before.

First of all, this is NOT a film for kids or even many teens. We're talking serious psychological thriller bordering on horror here. It's set in the world of the New York City Ballet company but isn't just a 'rival ballerina meets rival ballerina' plot. In this film reality and fantasy begin to blur until you wonder if there might be more than one way the lead Swan named Nina (played by Portman) is right for the role. A particular scene in which Nina pulls a black feather out of her back raises a ton of questions: Is she under attack by someone? The other ballerina? Her mother? Herself? Is someone manipulating her into thinking she's going crazy? If you know the story of Swan Lake, you'll instantly see how each of these scenarios is a plausible possibility and Director Darren Aronofsky explores them all.
Here's the official synopsis from Rough Cut Reviews:
"BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter's professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her."

If you Google for information you'll find the big buzz is not only about Natalie Portman's scary and dark makeover (and a controversial kiss scene) but also spotlights Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) and his penchant for portraying strong but conflicted women in eerie movies. This film definitely falls into that category. (See HERE for the Times article but be warned - the page opens with a scary image right at the top!)

Natalie Portman is indeed a ballet student and has been working and preparing to make this project a reality for at least the last decade, though I haven't been able to find much information on how much actually dancing she does in the film herself (though you can see her signed pointe shoes used in filming, below). With regard to the traditional Swan Lake dual role of Odette/Odile, which is explored at least in part through the film, it is a principle role and very demanding role.
So make the kiddies leave the room before you watch the trailer below - although you don't really see any violence, some of the images are nightmare-making for little ones (maybe some sensitive big ones too):

It's on my must-see list (combining ballet, fairy tales and psychological twists has me intrigued) but I have no idea how I'm going to see it before my toddler goes to preschool!

The official site is HERE.

The film opens in theaters on December 1st, 2010.


  1. "When you read the premise you have to wonder why they haven't done it before."
    Princess Tutu. Get the North America release complete collection while you can (if you can, though it was a real bargain compared to individual volumes or other such series collections when it first came out and I got it for £17 including shipping).

    I've also read it part-humorously typed that Black Swan is essentially a live-action remake of KON Satoshi's Perfect Blue (which Aronofsky has already directly referenced in Requiem for a Dream) with ballet diva substituted for singer/actress aidoru, though considering how long he and Portman have had the project in mind I put this more down to Kon's films resonating him for exploring similar interests, though different techniques.

    With this and the Songe de Médée sequences of Frederick Wiseman's La Danse, Electric Sheep magazine must be really regretting having already used up "Bloody Ballet" as an issue theme at the very beginning of this year.

  2. Ah, ballet. Brings back memories.

    Just curious, do ballerinas really wear that much makeup around their eyes? Because I remember being in concerts as a kid, and we never wore that much makeup. Then again...but neither did I see older people in our shows wear that much (I think).

  3. ooo, i'm looking forward to this one.

  4. This is definitely not your traditional swan lake princess look. It’s darker…more intriguing. My daughter, who loves Fairy Face Painting says its kinda scary. But for some reason, I like it. It’s something different.

  5. Ballet I love't. That makeup is special love it. You have a nice blog I enjoyed to read this blog.
    Greetings from Belgium

  6. 10:05p.m. September 29, 2010
    The tale of swan lake is about a prince who falls in love with an enchanted swan, Odette. The enchanted swan is cast by a manipulative scorsorer who is the prince’s educator. In ordere for the spell to be broken, a man must profess his love for the swan. At the a ball, the prince’s educator creates a woman who’s an evil image of Odette. How the story ends is a battle between th e educator and the prince. How the movie is portrayed is that the lead ballerina in swan lake starts to get intouch with her dark side as a result to a new competitor in the ballet company. This esxalates in to a battle of the two. “Frenemies” is a term coined in recent years. This is the concept used for this movie. These two girls work together, however they have their own motives at play. Jealousy is the ulitmate motivation to be evil as seen in all fairytales. This movie is very intriguing and definitely one that would be interesting to see. –Amy f.

  7. You should read "BLACK SWAN" by Mercedes Lackey, I'd say. Maybe you like it

  8. Acting is astonishing and captured cinematography: Visual, Real, and Emotional. This Artistic expression of dance and heart is conveyed to the most raw point of a person's humanity. It portrays life in a way of how we would all feel when we are pressured to produce our highest excellence for a cause or a passion we would die for. Overall the film is genius, and guaranteed one that will be recognized as such.

  9. When you dance you sweat a lot, therefore you need more resistant makeup. Plus, the character costume and makeup- must be seen from the last seat.
    You don t know how much make up you need just for a nude, natural look on face when you are on stage..
    I have hated it. But you need it..