Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
|Black Swan is a 2010 psychological thriller film directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film stars Vincent Cassel as the director, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis as ballet dancers in a New York City production of Swan Lake. This production requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina (Portman) fits the White Swan role perfectly, while Lily (Kunis) is the ideal personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina grows more in touch with her dark side, with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.|
Aronofsky conceived the premise by connecting his viewings of an actual production of Swan Lake with an unrealized screenplay about understudies and the notion of being haunted by a double, similar to the folklore surrounding doppelgängers. The director also considered Black Swan a companion piece to his 2008 film The Wrestler, with both films involving demanding performances for different kinds of art. He and Portman first discussed the project in 2000, and after a brief attachment to Universal Pictures, Black Swan was produced in New York City in 2009 by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Portman and Kunis trained in ballet for several months prior to filming and notable figures from the ballet world helped with film production to shape the ballet presentation. The film premiered as the opening film for the 67th Venice International Film Festival on September 1, 2010. It had a limited release starting December 3, 2010 and will have a nationwide release on December 22.
Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) dances on a spotlit stage and a strange creature (Rothbart from Swan Lake) takes hold of her and begins to lead. The dance comes to an end, where the creature releases Nina and she dances forth as the white swan. Nina wakes up the following morning and tells her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), about the dream as she warms up. She tells her mother that the director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), will be featuring her more this season. While Erica helps her dress, she notices a strange rash on Nina's back. Nina insists it is nothing and leaves. En route to the performance center, Nina spots a strange girl (Mila Kunis) in the adjacent train car. Fixated, Nina watches as the girl gets off. At the center, Nina and the other dancers warm up. The strange girl makes a loud entrance and introduces herself as Lily, a new dancer filling in the role for another performer named Rebecca. They warm up, and Leroy silently observes them. He taps and critiques some of the dancers as they practice. When they finish, Leroy says that all dancers he tapped should continue with the normal rehearsal schedule, while the girls he didn't tap should meet him in the practice room at five.
When Nina auditions in front of the other dancers, Leroy tells her that he can only envision her as the white swan. He says she must also learn to embody the sensual and mysterious black swan if she wants the part. Nina attempts the black swan routine, while Leroy continues to tell her that she needs to "get lost" in the dance and seduce the audience. Lily interrupts Nina's performance and as a result she stumbles. Leroy dismisses her. Distraught, Nina gathers her things and prepares to leave. At home, her mother asks how the audition went. Nina says it went fine but then collapses sobbing into her mother's arms. The next day, Nina goes back to the performance center. While she is getting ready, she hears screaming from down the hall. She goes over and discovers the noise is emanating from Beth McIntyre's (Winona Ryder) room. Beth was the former star of the ballet who was to be retiring at the end of the season. Nina sees a bouquet being flung at the mirror and goes to investigate. Beth storms out of the center after a brief scuttle with Nina. She goes into the room and examines some of Beth's things. She takes a stick of lipstick, a nail file, along with numerous other memorabilia.
When she goes home, she practices the black swan routine. As she spins en pointe, she breaks her toe nail. Her mother cleans her wound and Nina tells her she will tell Leroy that she finished the routine. Nina puts on Beth's lipstick the following morning on the train. When she arrives at the performance center, she asks Leroy for a word. They go into his office, and she tells him that she finished the routine. He asks her if that is all and she replies that she actually came to ask for the role of Swan Queen. Leroy considers her, but tells her that all he sees when he looks at her is the white swan. He says she is too focused on making each and every move precise, to which Nina responds, "I just wanna be perfect." Leroy tells her that either way the role has already gone to another dancer named Veronica. Nina apologizes and prepares to leave, and Leroy asks why she does not fight for the role. Nina does not know what to say and Leroy kisses her. As they are kissing, she bites him and leaves. Nina gets ready for practice. Later, she finds that the cast list has been posted. She runs into Veronica and congratulates her. Nina begins to walk away, but as she does Veronica comes back and asks if this was her idea of some kind of sick joke. Nonplussed, Nina asks her what she means but Veronica says "fuck you" and walks away. Nina goes up to the cast list and finds to her delight that she has been cast as the Swan Queen. All the other dancers congratulate her and she goes into the bathroom and cries. She calls her mother and tells her the exciting news. However, she finds that the word "whore" has been crudely written with lipstick on the mirror of the bathroom. She wipes it clean and goes home. While she is walking, she sees a strange woman who appears to be mimicking her at the end of an alley way. As they cross paths Nina realizes that the woman is almost like her doppleganger, albeit wearing darker clothes.
At the apartment, Nina takes a shower and observes her back again. She finds that the rash has grown even larger. She gets into a robe and goes into the kitchen. Her mother has prepared her a large cake, but Nina says that she is still too excited to eat. Her mother seems irritable and begins to throw it out, but Nina tells her that she wants some and concedes to eating. In honor of the new version of Swan Lake being released, the ballet company holds an exquisite party. After Leroy holds a toast to "Beth, Nina, and beauty" Nina goes into the bathroom. She notices the skin around her fingernail is peeling. She scrapes off the excess, but accidentally rips out a whole strip of skin. Nina screams, but looks back to see that her finger is fine. Someone knocks at the door and Nina opens it, revealing Lily. She introduces herself and tells Nina how amazing she is for being cast as the Swan Queen. Lily takes off her panties and urges for Nina to stay. Nina excuses herself and goes back to the party. Leroy tells her that they should go back to his place for drinks. He leaves her in the lobby for a few minutes as he goes to greet a few more people. Nina examines a statue of an angel and is surprised to find Beth standing behind her.
Beth tells her that she is an expendable whore. Leroy comes back and tries to calm her down, but to no avail. At his apartment, Leroy explains that this happens with most aging ballerinas. He hands Nina a glass of champagne and asks her if she has ever had a boyfriend. She tells him she has had a few but never anything serious. Leroy tells her she needs to let loose and to touch herself that night. When morning comes, Nina is still lying in her bed. She starts to masturbate but sees her mother asleep by her bedside and hurriedly shifts back into a sleeping position. That day, the whole center is distraught over the news that Beth is now in the hospital. Apparently, she walked in front of a car. Nina meets with Leroy and he tells her that she probably did it on purpose. Nina goes to visit Beth in the hospital that night and lays a bouquet of flowers by her bedside. She lifts the covers and looks in horror at Beth's gruesome wounds. She quickly retreats from the hospital.
During the night, Nina takes a bath. She begins to masturbate again and sinks her head under the water. Blood droplets fall into the water, and when she looks up she finds her doppleganger peering at her above the surface. Nina brings her head back above the tub but finds nobody. Now in a bathrobe, she walks to her mother's room but instead finds her in her art studio, crying silently as she paints. Back at the center, it is evident that Nina is still struggling with the black swan role. Leroy continues to urge her to become more free and passionate. He makes her watch Lily as she dances, and explains that while her form may be imperfect, she is sensual and real. After this, Nina breaks down in the practice room in front of the bars. Lily comes in, at first appearing to be Nina's doppleganger, and asks Nina if she wants a cigarette, though smoking is prohibited in the studio. Nina takes one, but breaks down as Lily questions her about the practice. Lily asks if Nina is falling for Leroy, which Nina denies. Lily says that he has a reputation, though isn't exactly "warm and fuzzy." Angered, Nina gets up and goes back home.
That night, Nina looks into her mother's studio where she had created dozens of pictures of her. One of the paintings laughs and glances at her, but when Nina looks back it is still. She finds her mother and she examines the rash on Nina's back and asks if she has been scratching. Nina denies this, but her mother takes her shirt off, brings her into the bathroom, and violently cuts her nails. She states that the role is too much pressure for her. Later on, Nina dumps discarded items from her apartment into the disposal and finds a wooden bar nearby. She takes it and brings it back to her room. Leroy continues to pressure her as the date of the show draws nearer. Lily notices this and tells him that he should go easier on Nina and stop pressuring her so much. When he tells Nina about this, she denies that the pressure is getting to her and confronts Lily about it. Nina rebuffs Lily's attempts at apologizing and leaves. At the apartment, Nina's mother is worried that she is working too hard, as she stays for late sessions almost every night. Nina says that everything is fine. Her mother asks if her skin is okay and Nina replies that the rash has subsided. Her mother asks to see it but Nina denies her. At that moment, the doorbell rings and Nina's mother answers. She closes the door and when Nina asks who it was her mother says it was nobody. Nina opens the door again and finds Lily outside.
Lily says she wanted to apologize for talking to Leroy and offers to take her out for drinks. Nina agrees and abandons her mother in their apartment. As they eat, Lily tells Nina that she needs to relax. She offers her ecstasy from a small case in her handbag, stating that it gives you energy and only lasts a couple of hours tops. Nina refuses, but gives in while they are drinking. They talk to two men (Sebastian Stan and Toby Hemingway) at the bar, and after some awkward conversation Lily interjects and suggests that they go dancing. They participate in a club dance as Nina's face continually shifts to that of the black swan. Later on Nina almost has sex with a random man and leaves. As she departs from the club Lily asks what she is doing and they get into a cab together. On the way to Nina's apartment, Lily makes sexual advances towards her. When they arrive, they go into Nina's room as her mother proceeds to question her. Nina shoves the wooden bar in the door as a makeshift lock, and states that she isn't twelve anymore. Nina looks toward Lily, walking over and kissing her. They proceed to have sex. However, Lily suddenly transforms into a darker version of Nina and smothers her with a pillow. When she wakes up, she discovers that she is late. Furious, Nina hurriedly dresses herself and demands as to why her mother didn't wake her. Nina leaves and says she is moving out. When she gets to the performance center, she finds that Lily is dancing her role. When Nina asks why she didn't wake her, Lily tells her that she never went home with her that night. Confused and embarrassed, Nina proceeds to dance her part. Leroy tells her that she is improving.
Later at a costume fitting, Nina believes that her reflection is scratching her back where her rash is. She looks again but the reflection returns to normal. Nina hears the costume designer talking to Lily about fitting her for the Swan Queen. Lily tells her that Leroy has cast her as her alternate. Enraged, Nina seeks out Leroy. When she finds him, she pleads with Leroy to believe her that Lily is after her role. He tells her that no one is after her and to relax. That night, Nina stays for an extremely long session in preparation for the show which will be premiering the following day. The pianist leaves, telling her that he has a life and she shouldn't work too hard. Nina, now all alone, peers at her reflection in the mirror and is horrified to find it staring back at her. Suddenly, the lights shut off. Nina tries to tell someone to put the lights back on, but is distracted by a strange noise coming from corner-stage. She looks around and finds Leroy and Lily having sex. In an instant, Leroy transforms into Rothbart and Nina flees to her dressing room in fear. She gathers the items she previously stole from Beth and leaves. Once at the hospital, Nina places all of Beth's items on a table next to where Beth is sleeping in a wheelchair. As Nina is placing the nail file on the table, Beth grabs her hand and demands to know why Nina is there. Nina tells Beth she understands what it is like to have someone replace you. Unable to cope with her ended career, Beth begins to stab herself with the nail file. A terrified Nina bursts out of the hospital.
With the show premiering in less than eight hours, Nina begins to unravel. She dresses herself and goes into her room. Nina starts throwing out all of her childhood stuffed animals and smashes her Swan Lake jewelry box. She hears voices coming from the art studio, and finds all of the paintings have morphed into disfigured faces, chanting "sweet girl." Nina screams for them to stop and rips them all down. Her mother comes in and asks her what's wrong, but Nina goes back into her room and places the wooden bar by her door again. In front of her mirror, Nina examines the rash on her back and pulls out a small, black down feather. Her mother finally gets the door open, snapping the wooden bar, Nina pushes her mother out of the room, slamming the door in her mother's hand, breaking it. All of a sudden, her legs start to feel funny. She looks down and they crack backwards like those of a swan. Screaming in pain, Nina collapses, hitting her head on the bedstand and knocking unconscious. On the morning of the show, Nina wakes up to find her clock missing and her mother eyeing her from the side of her bed. She asks what her mother did with the clock, and also sees that the doorknob is missing. Her mother argues that she needs to rest and she won't allow her to leave until she is better. Nina pushes her mother aside and grabs the doorknob from under her. Her mother asks, "What happened to my sweet girl?" and Nina replies, "She's gone!" snapping her mother's good hand. Nina, growing ever unstable, marches over to the performance center to see her poster on the side of the building. She runs inside and Lily demands as to why she is there. However, Nina calmly goes into her dressing room and starts preparing. Leroy questions her, but she nonchalantly answers that she is fine.
The show begins. Nina is moved upstage as she prepares for her entrance as the white swan. She notices the full house. The music plays and she dances on, executing her routine with grace. However, when the prince holds her up, she shifts suddenly and he drops her. Nina looks on at all of the faces of the audience and picks herself up. She finishes the scene, but quietly cries as she goes offstage. All of the other dancers ask if she is okay but she rushes to her dressing room. There, she finds Lily in the black swan costume, putting on her makeup. Lily tells her that it's her turn to perform. Nina tells her to get out, but Lily goads her about not being good enough to play the black swan. Nina grabs her and pushes her into the mirror, smashing it into pieces. Lily suddenly transforms into Nina's doppleganger and starts to strangle her, saying that it's her turn now. The real Nina picks up a shard of mirror and stabs her doppleganger in the stomach, saying, "No, it's my turn!" Her doppleganger turns back into Lily, who is actually dead. Nina drags the body into the bathroom and gets into the black swan costume. When she gets on stage, Nina has become a fully realized black swan. She performs perfectly, getting every move correctly while simultaneously showing that passion that she yearned to gain. As she prepares to finish, the feathers start sprouting on her arms. Nina twirls and the feathers continue to grow, ending with a finale in which Nina has fully formed black wings. She receives a standing ovation and goes offstage to kiss Leroy before receiving her praise. Back at her dressing room, Nina gets into her white swan costume in preparation for the finale, where the Swan Queen jumps off a cliff and kills herself. She looks towards the bathroom and finds that blood is seeping out. Nina gets a towel and puts it under the crack to stop it. Someone knocks on the door and Nina opens it to find Lily, who tells her that she was amazing and she didn't know she had it in her. Nina doesn't say anything, and Lily lets her finish getting ready. Nina closes the door and lifts the towel from the bathroom. There is no blood. Looking inside the bathroom, there is no body. There never was one. Nina looks down in shock to find the shard of mirror lodged inside her own stomach. She takes it out and it drops to the floor.
In the finale, Nina dances onto the stage and goes to the prop-cliff. She takes a final gaze at the prince, Rothbart, and her mother out in the audience. She begins to cry. The music hits its zenith and Nina jumps off the side onto a mattress, the blood from her wound beginning to spread. She lands and all the other ballerinas as well as Leroy crowd around her in congratulations. Lily notices the blood and gasps. Leroy tells the others to go get help, but Nina simply says, "I felt it." Leroy asks what she felt, and to this Nina replies, "perfect." The screen fades to white with the crowd chanting for Nina.