Black Swan director skillfully navigates character’s psyche

“Swan Lake” is a Tchaikovsky ballet that tells the story of a young princess named Odette. “Black Swan” is the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a young, ambitious ballerina in present-day New York. Nina wants to take the lead in “Swan Lake” and manages to convince the director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), to give it her. Her biggest struggle is to transform herself on stage from the innocent white swan to the evil, seductive black swan. Director Darren Aronofsky takes viewers through the jungle of Nina’s mind as she attempts to make the necessary transformation for the role and deal with her obsession with perfection. Her life happens in the studio, on stage and in her own psyche, and this is what viewers witness. Nina’s pursuit to be a great dancer shakes her emotional sanity. She pushes herself to her limits, both physically and mentally. The film opens with a nightmarish scene from which Nina wakes in her pink, childlike bedroom. That contrast is present throughout the film. Nina’s overbearing mother tries to keep her from maturing, as she must in order to succeed as the black swan. “What happened to my sweet girl?” her mother asks in one scene, to which Nina responds, “She’s gone.” The story will not surprise anybody but Nina’s inner world, combined with her elegant dance across the floor, will. And if her innocence seems overplayed by Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis balances it with her own performance as an impulsive ballerina. Aronofsky is good with thrillers and he is also very sensitive to the world around him. From the damaging universe in “Requiem for a Dream” to the painful comeback of “The Wrestler,” he makes films about beauty and hardship, inside and out. “Black Swan” is the product of today’s society and it is not a film about ballet, although I’m glad ballet is the background of the story. Today’s world is filled with anxiety, young people, confusion, sex and uncontrollable fear. “Black Swan” is about coming to a climax, and, hopefully, surviving it. It’s about the opening night, the final exams, the ball dropping and all those big moments. It also comes with an impressive fidelity of sound that might trap you in your seat. Your senses will stay alert, so just go with it!