The Pi of Black Swan



So I just watched this film.

And was disappointed to discover it was Aranofsky remaking Aronofsky.  Black Swan is just a remake of Pi.  Unfortunately, Pi was the superior effort.  It isn't as if Aranofsky was even subtle about this retooling of his breakthrough film.  There are visual quotes of Pi all through Black Swan.  He even went so far as to pull in the train pervert who bothered Pi lead character, Max, into the film to torture Nina.  Truthfully if it was revealed in the future that Nina is related to Max, it wouldn't surprise me.

Aranofsky is a difficult director to like.  He is on the same level as David Lynch.  In that he is fascinated by people in extreme emotional and psychological states.  He also includes a lot of dream motifs into his work as well.  In the past, he let that element run free with amazing visuals that were always emotionally jolting and meaningful.  However Black Swan is a labored, mainstream effort scrubbed free of the obsessions that so inspired Aranofsky in the past.  So much so that he resorted into stealing from himself in order to make something almost "normal".

Unlike Max who at least had the remnants of passion regarding his mathematical profession, Nina is blank.  I just never understood why Nina was dancing.  There is no drive inside Nina to solve the enigma or equation problem of dance.  She keeps telling people she wants perfection but we never see her trying to reach for that desire.  In Pi we saw Max solving problems, studying his obsession, explaining to the audience the history of his profession.  Nina NEVER does that.  We don't receive the fascinating history of ballet through Nina's eyes, instead we see her stealing castoffs from another lead dancer.  In fact, it just seems the only reasons that Nina dances are because she was dropped off at classes by her stage mom and perhaps she would like to impress her dance impresario boss.

The dance world is strangely remote from the film.  We only see hints of classes or bits of performances. Ultimately, I think the film was hurt because the lead characters were not professional ballet dancers.  Aranofsky couldn't show the dance because the "dancer" couldn't dance.  So instead we get a lot of Nina  looking stressed.  This was another area in which the film paled against it's progenitor, Pi.  Max was just as stressed, depressed and withdrawn as Nina but at least he had moments of calmness.  Nina is given no such rest.  So Natalie Portman is forced to turn on the hysteria to level 11.  Through the whole film she has that frightened wide-eyed look of psychotic hysteria.  After the first 30 minutes with no release, it became monotonous and ridiculous.  It was illogical that no one else in the film noticed that this girl was very, very disturbed.

So the film wasn't about dance, it wasn't about the ballet Black Swan, it was just about a backward girl suffering from severe panic attacks.  Granted, a lot of it looked good.  But if you want to see the same story done very well, watch Arnofsky's old film Pi.  If you want to see masterpiece films about dance, watch The Red Shoes or All That Jazz.

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