Darren Aronofsky has always crafted fascinating movies with unique and profound insight into various characters. "Black Swan" is no different. The story follows Nina (Natalie Portman) a ballet dancer with issues. When she's given the lead in "Swan Lake", she's excited, but has no idea what the cost will be for her. The director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) warns her that while she would be perfect for the innocent White Swan, she's not quite a good fit for the Black Swan, because she lacks the edge for it. Pressured by the rivalry of a fellow dancer, suffocated by her obsessive mother and determined to be nothing short of perfect for the show, Nina falls deeper and deeper into madness, losing touch with reality, finally becoming the Black Swan, in the ultimate sacrifice for art's sake.
It's hard to pinpoint a specific genre for this movie. Aronofsky creates a mix of human drama and psychological thriller with sexual undertones. If you've watched the trailers, you're probably thinking art house, but I think Arronofsky found the perfect balance to making the story entertaining and appealing for any type of audience, despite being a very disturbing piece of cinema. It flows smoothly, carried on by Natalie Portman's brilliant and very challenging portrayal. She creates sympathy for Nina, even in her most terrible moments, as she removes layer after layer of sanity. She lives and breathes dancing and the extremes to which she goes to become the perfect artist are frightening. We, the audience, are mere spectators to her self-destruction, and that's what makes this movie pack a devastating emotional punch.
On a technical level, Aronofsky spares no expense (not that the movie itself was expensive to make). The flawless editing, the gritty cinematography, the hypnotic original score, the smart use of CGI, all blend seamlessly to create a dizzying vortex of madness that we watch, almost compulsively, right up to its overwhelming finale. It's a wonderful achievement, and I really hope it gets more attention at the Academy Awards, other than Natalie Portman's sure win in the Leading Actress category. Overall it's not as ambitious as "The Fountain", but it's also more consistent and more satisfying to watch, definitely Arrnofsky's best movie so far.