In the dance of Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, there are only a few players who we must attend our eyes to; but in this handful of quite outstanding ensemble of prolific actors one finds all the elements required for a great character piece swirling around a central figure. I am of course suggesting that the performance of Natalie Portman is the crux of the film, as she is who we are introduced to as one to cheer for and ultimately one to feel sorrow for.
In the past Ms. Portman has shown some promise of jumping into the big leagues of the A-list community of actors, and yet never before have I truly sensed that she deserved it. However, this film shatters all previous work done by the young actress, and in just one viewing I found it worthy of an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. That is quite a statement; but one I know many are coming to believe.
The film is a psycho-kinetic twist on the duality of human nature, and in the course of a "play within a play", we see the struggles personify themselves to great thrills and chills. Aronofsky uses a rather subtle approach to a genre that typically lacks a little brains and overdoses a bit on the blood buckets, and the tension, my god the tension, is so strong that you feel yourself exhaling long after the final credits roll. He truly is one of the best young directors working on the circuit.
The abruptly sexual nature of the film transpires around and throughout each scene, and not one single character is seen without a sense of both their good "white swan" and bad "black swan" personalities. We sense the loss of every character in their attempts to get what they want, and that is what makes every scene fit together. The key element, however-is large in part to the greatest metamorphosis of the film, namely Ms. Nina Sayers (Portman), in transitioning from a feeble, dainty, frightened by all but perfection to a loose, flowing, and ultimately dark manifestation seeking freedom. This transition is not without stumbling blocks, as it was quite powerful to connect the harsh sexual transfiguration of her experiences to the personality changes that have literally sought her out and bound her to it. We sense that she wants to become this "other side" the entire film; but ultimately it is only in herself that she finds the means to destroy her own ambitions.
It is truly in the change of her characteristics that we can see the truth behind the veil, and the beauty behind the tragedy. And in the dance of this film, a true phoenix rising from the ashes.
For that I give this film one of the highest honors I can bestow in criticism: It reinvigorated my sense of what film CAN and SHOULD do.