Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment
In case you’ve been living under a rock and have missed the phenomenal motion picture named The Black Swan, Natalie Portman’s deserved Oscar win, and all the parodies and hoopla around the internet, your chance to see it at home has arrived. Don’t let the previews fool you. This is a pure psychological horror movie in the finest sense.
The Black Swan is the story of a meek ballerina who gets the chance of a lifetime when she is tapped to play the Swan Queen in the classic ballet Swan Lake. Between her controlling mother and her rigidly structured life, her sanity begins to slip when she tries to “lose herself” in the character of the Black Swan. The more she practices for her dream role, the further into the dark she goes in a chilling portrayal of a fragile girl’s descent into madness. Add to her struggles a new girl who seems to want her role, the fading diva on her way out, and the director who seems to think the best way to get her to surrender to the role is to seduce her and then instruct her to go home and masturbate, and we get a twisted film that keeps audiences guessing and engrossed.
Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) proves his artistic vision using largely documentary-style footage for a gritty, realistic feel to the film. From his innovative camerawork involving mirrors to the looming shadows that mimic those in lead Nina (Portman)’s psyche, Aronofsky’s vision is a dark and fractured lens through which we see his singular version of Swan Lake.
Performances in Black Swan are powerful and well deserving of any accolade a person might want to heap upon them. Vincent Cassel is perfect as the arrogant troupe leader Vincent. Mila Kunis (yes, that Mila Kunis) plays her character of Lily to the hilt, pulling both sexy and dangerous off with deceptive ease. Barbara Hershey is the most overbearing mother since Norma Bates, and Winona Ryder plays her role as the aging diva Beth to perfection. Which brings us, of course, to the star of the show, Natalie Portman. Whether she really danced or not, her performance was Oscar-worthy.
The DVD comes with four special features, one of which is a collection of a few trailers for upcoming films. The others are actually one feature, a three-part documentary about the making of Black Swan called Metamorphosis. Part one is a behind-the-scenes look at Aronofsky’s directing process. It’s a bit dry, but it provides a lot of insight into how little time and money they had to shoot this film, and the director manages to show this without coming off as arrogant. Part two takes us in for a closer look at the physical aspect of the production, the dancing, and how demanding it was on the (non-dancer) actors. Let it never be said that ballet dancers aren’t athletes. Part three is a fascinating, but all-too-brief look at the special effects of the film. From the prosthetic and practical effects to the seamless digital manipulations, what we get to see of the FX process is inspiring. Too bad it’s also the shortest of the features, clocking in at just around ten minutes.
The Blu-ray, well, that’s a bit of a different story. First off the image is nothing short of striking as the film is presented in its true-to-source 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. Even though Aronofsky used an odd mix of cameras on the shoot, including 16mm Arriflex cameras and two of Canon’s 1080p video-capable DSLRs, the 5D Mark II and the 7D, the picture remains crystal clear and razor sharp nearly the whole time with just a slight deviation in picture quality. Simply put … it’s a jaw dropping presentation. The same can be said for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which is as crystal clear as it is dynamic. Yep, there’s a lot to like here. Especially the extra features.
DVD owners once again get the shaft as the Blu-ray is simply packing with goodies, most of which are presented in glorious HD except where noted below. Things once again kick off with the three-part Black Swan Metamorphosis featurette, but from there we also get featurettes covering the usage of ballet within the film, a look at the production design, two profiles — one of Portman, the other Aronofsky, a two-part conversation featurette with Aronofsky and Portman, and five different Fox Movie Channel Presents behind-the-scenes featurettes. While that sounds like a ton, it should be noted that each of these extra bits runs between one to seven minutes long.
The DVD for Black Swan is worth owning, special features be damned. But if you have the tech, there’s no denying the Blu-ray is nothing short of an absolute must-buy. Though both can easily be used for … I don’t know … maybe a look at the film’s costume and production design, or even just slow-motion shots of Portman and Kunis’ intense love scene. Not that I would do anything like that. Just sayin’ …
5 out of 5
Special Features DVD
2 out of 5
Special Features Blu-ray
4 out of 5