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DVD Review: Black Swan

March 29, 2011

Black Swan – An Fox Searchlight Release

http://www.foxsearchlight.com/blackswan/

DVD Release Date: March 29th, 2010

Rated 14A for coarse language, sexual content and disturbing content

Running time: 103 minutes

 

Darren Aronofsky (dir.)

 

Mark Heyman (screenplay)

Andrés Heinz (screenplay)

John McLaughlin (screenplay)

 

Clint Mansell (music)

 

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers

Mila Kunis as Lily

Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy

Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers

 

Our reviews below:

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Black Swan DVD Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

At the heart of Darren Aronofsky’s riveting ballet thriller, Black Swan, is Natalie Portman’s unforgettable and Oscar-winning performance as emotionally tortured ballerina, Nina Sayers.  Cast as both leads in a season-opening performance of Swan Lake, Nina’s sanity is questioned as she is falls under the possible seduction of dance instructor Thomas (Vincent Cassel), and rival dancer Lily (Mila Kunis).  Added pressure comes in the form of her unstable mother (Barbara Hershey), but dancing is Nina’s life and it is all she knows.

 

From the striking and metaphorical use of music and dance, which is expertly captured through the suitably gritty camera work, we are mesmerized from first shot to fade out as Nina takes a head-spinning swan dive into sheer madness.  But at the heart of Black Swan is the beautifully fragile Portman who grounds the film in its disturbing reality, and keeps us watching even as the tension builds.  A graceful and darkly beautiful psychological thriller, this is one of the best movies of last year.

 

The Blu-ray includes six featurettes, on everything from Darren Aronofsky’s directing to Natalie Portman’s performance.  It should also be noted that the Blu-ray’s packaging is white, where’s that of the DVD is black.

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Black Swan DVD Review By Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

When I went to see Black Swan in theatres, I was unsure what the film would be like.  The trailer looked strange, and not in the typical genre I enjoy.  But I was surprised at the power and elegance this film possessed in its gritty look into the unravelling of ballerina Nina Sayer’s (Natalie Portman) mind.

 

The film certainly will not be for everyone.  There are a few jump moments, and it is deserving, due to the content, of its strong 14A rating.  But during the final 15 minutes, we are gripped to the screen as we try to figure out what is reality and what is not.  The final ballet scenes make up one of the best end sequences put on screen last year.  Written and directed by Darren Aaronofsky (The Wrestler), this is a masterfully made film that is worth seeing if even just for the fragile performance of Oscar-winner Natalie Portman who leads this film.

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Black Swan DVD Review By Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Black Swan provides a brilliant glimpse into the world of mental illness.  Natalie Portman is outstanding as Nina Sayers, a young ballerina.  She still lives with her mother, who struggles with a mental illness.  Nina’s dream is to star in Swan Lake as the two rival swans.  She has the part of Odette, the virginal White Swan down pat, but her innocent demeanor makes it hard to play Odile, the sexy Black Swan in the ballet.  Nina’s instructor Thomas (Vincent Cassel) seduces her, which brings out not only Nina’s sexuality, but her dark side as well.  Lily (Mila Kunis), Nina’s understudy, makes things worse by sexually confusing Nina and introducing her to drugs.  While Nina gets better at her dual roles, she begins to develop the same illness that her mother has.  How will Nina’s descent into psychosis affect her performance?

 

I found Black Swan fascinating on many levels.  First, I really like classical music and ballet, so this film appealed to me.  Second, I find psychology to be an interesting subject.  All the actors in the film were amazing in their roles, but Natalie Portman was deserving of her Oscar win every step of the way.  Portman underplayed a person in psychosis so sensitively that the viewers believe the reality her mind has created.  One really feels the pain Nina is going through.  Sometimes the film graphically shows the harmful stim behaviours that Nina has, in which sensitive viewers may want to look away.  But there is so much beauty and emotion in Black Swan that this film is impossible not to watch.  Black Swan was truly one of the best films of 2010, and will be watched by generations to come.

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Black Swan DVD Review By Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Swan Lake has always been my favourite ballet.  The opposing roles of the pure white swan, Odette versus the darkly evil black swan, Odile are beautifully powerful and passionate.  Black Swan is the gracefully dark and haunting story of fragile dancer, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) as she struggles mentally and physically to play both swans with obsessive perfection.

 

Portman is absolutely mesmerizing as the fragile and graceful dancer.  Her Best Actress Oscar win was well deserved.  In Black Swan we watch as Nina struggles with her inner fears and anxieties.  The scenes where she is pulling at her own skin and nails are difficult to watch, but even more difficult is her mental anguish.  The scenes with her overly involved mother (Barbara Hershey) and her demanding artistic director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) have the viewer wondering how long it will be before Nina cracks under the pressure.  Adding to the pressure is the reality that her rival dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis) would gladly take over the role if Nina is unable to perform.

 

As the film progresses our sense of what is and what isn’t reality becomes distorted.  The tension builds beautifully right up until the final act when Nina dances flawlessly as the Black Swan.  The ending is shocking and powerful.  Although I found Black Swan to be difficult to watch at times, it is completely absorbing and fascinating.  The intensity and emotion here fits with the beauty and passion of Swan Lake.  The Blu-ray is worth getting for the movie itself as well as for the extra featurettes and commentaries.

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Black Swan DVD Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

For a new NYC Ballet production of Swan Lake, the intense French director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is casting the same dancer for both White and Black Swans. As Beth (Winona Ryder) is reluctantly retired from the company, Nina (Natalie Portman) is a possible replacement, perfect as the White Swan but a bit too uptight in Leroy’s opinion as the Black Swan. Nina feels threatened by the new younger and less inhibited dancer Lily (Mila Kunis). Nina’s mother (Barbara Hershey), whose own dance career was cut short by mental illness, adds to the stress. A descent into madness leads to both triumph and tragedy.

 

Black Swan is the latest film directed by Darren Aronofsky which, like The Wrestler, explores the extreme stress some performers place on themselves in pursuit of perfection. The result is at once a celebration of ballet and a cautionary tale. Already a trained dancer, Portman worked hard to be able to do all but the most technical moves herself, and lost weight to a typically unhealthy level. The physical challenges added to a brilliant performance from within that was richly deserving of all its awards, though it is disturbing to watch.

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Consensus: With an unforgettable and Oscar-winning performance from Natalie Portman at its heart, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a riveting and darkly beautiful psychological thriller set in the world of ballet. **** (Out of 4)

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