With Black Swan he moves away from the trashiness (which in case of The Wrestler is not at all a bad characteristic) of some previous movies, but preserving the schizophrenic labyrinthine structure, capable to produce a feeling of a greater intensity than suspense.
Like in Swan Lake ballet, the whole film is constructed around the figure of a very untypical diva – Natalie Portman. She embodies a very submissive dancer/a true mommy’s girl on the verge of a nervous breakdown, because of her incapability to dance the role of the Black Swan in Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Being a projection of her mother’s unfulfilled dreams, she seems to have learned every step of ballet by heart, like algorithms. It is the soul of the dance, that is missing, but is indispensable to dance the role. Portman lives the role of Nina Sayers to the point, that both personalities end by melting in with each other. Watching the actress move, it is not difficult to imagine that this is actually her, doing all what it takes to play a role perfectly. For that matter, Aronofsky, undoubtedly, found the right leading lady.
More, Black Swan is very interesting in the angle of composition by combining extremely different elements. An elitist spectacle which ballet is, in a form of a psychological triller plus some very piquant scenes? – This combination is the source of the critique and controversy towards this film. At some point this movie is like an oxymoron, having some difficulties to find it’s public – what will be liked by ones (the ballet, for example) will be disliked by the others. And, certainly, ballet dancers, obviously will have a particular opinion about this Aronofsky’s miracle, since none of the leading actors is a professional dancer. Nevertheless, the director solves this problem very smartly. A large number of dance scenes are filmed by a shaky camera and sometimes even from across the dancer’s shoulder. So, it is less possible to notice the weak points of dancing. Though, the aspect of unprofessionalism should come as no surprise, because Black Swan focuses more on the cinematographic processes, not the dance. And after all, everyone is surely aware, that the leading role features Natalie Portman – the actress, not Mikhail Baryshnikov!
As for cinematographic qualities, notably the effect on the spectator, Black Swan is an excellent film. It is able to make the senses tingle and the mind question the limits of reality and imagination. After The Wrestler (2008), Aronofsky takes back his characteristic hallucination-like narration, which in tandem with Portman’s acting sets up a real frenzy.