Saturday, February 26, 2011

Natalie Portman, in Black Swan
approximately 89 minutes and 44 seconds**
88.3% of the film

The film

A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like the Black Swan.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Black Swan really is a film like no other this year. It’s beautifully directed, acted quite well, incredibly shot and scored, but with a troubled screenplay. The story is too damn silly to be good, but overall it’s a very artsy film.

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers

Natalie Portman is a young actress, but she’s been around for so long that it makes the following statement not sound so ridiculous: I feel her performance in Black Swan is the best she’s ever given and most of us can agree on that, but I also believe that it’s probably the best role she’ll ever get – you know how you can usually feel this stuff. This is IT for Natalie, I feel like this will be the highest moment of her career and her best casting.

Natalie plays Nina, a ballerina in her 20s, a very dedicated artist, but fragile, vulnerable when it comes to her day to day life. Her life changes when she gets her big break, the leading role in Swan Lake, and the pressure of the role, added to her lesbian crush on one of her colleagues provokes a mental breakdown, hallucinations of unimaginable proportions. It’s an extremely difficult role to do right, both on the physicality of it, and also on nailing the character arc.

Natalie’s training for this role was often used as a trick in campaigning, to get voters’ sympathy, considering this type of dedication, or deglam in other cases, always works. But in the case of Natalie, I have no problem with the shameless mentioning of the process of preparing for the role, because it somehow both justifies the perfect casting, and it also prepares the actress in learning about her character – and you can tell it works perfectly.

The physicality of the performance helps not just in making the character believable and the performance relevant, but it also gives almost more than needed in creating dance scenes that feel great beyond the requirements. I’ll say it now: my favorite scene of hers comes towards the end, when she’s first hitting the stage as the black swan. Her face expression is what I imagine to be perfection for the role, but the way her body moves, that rhythm is something sublime, unexpected, Natalie is completely in control of a character that’s completely lost in its own character.

But besides the dancing there’s also a difficult emotional aspect. What seems at first to be a bit of hesitation or too much ingenuity in Natalie’s performance is quickly justified by what she’s trying to do with the character and by the knock-out transformation throughout, that she’s preparing. Natalie can play innocent and delicate and she completely proves it here; her acting inspires the type of gentleness that perfectly fits the horror of what’s happening to her, and her reactions of fear, terror and insecurity are perfectly acted, as pure, believable reactions from the character.

And how cool are the pulling-out-feathers scene or her confident arrogance when applying the makeup us just before the show starts?! It’s a complicated role, and even when the story’s just too much, Natalie is there to keep everything in control and move the focus from the distracting dialogue or narrative to her – because she’s almost in every scene and it’s the type of justifiable showy acting that just grabs all of our attention.

And a showy role it is, but never mommie dearest or B series horror, because Natalie also brings humanity to the character (which I noticed better while watching it for the second time), makes it believable, while she’s also on the safe hands of the fantastic Darren Aronofsky. It’s an impressive performance, unique, like no other lately, and it’s quite great, so considering all the praises I gave I must go with , though it’s more of a 4.5 but I’m feeling generous right now. Just imagine what the role could’ve been in the hands of the (even slightly) wrong actress.

**counting the screentime was the most difficult it’s ever been, as I wasn’t always sure when the body double stepped in or not. I didn’t count it as Natalie’s in the one obvious case, but I did in those which were argueble.


dinasztie said...

Where did she have a body double? :)

I think there's one thing that gives her the edge over Bening and the other ladies: lots of screentime. I mean more than twice as much as Bening.

And I'm so happy you loved her.

Also, I would be EXTREMELY pissed and upset if she lost.

Alex in Movieland said...

I remember Daren mentioning in passing at a round table that they did use a double for some scenes. And it's normal, I get it.

for example, when she dances on stage, there are 4 seconds where they just show the feet, in a very difficult technique. I'm sure they used the double there.

I'm not sure about her first scene of the dream. At first I thought they used a double, because the steps seemed difficult, but it's also a continuous shot which moves to show that it's Natalie... so I'm not sure if it was her doing everything or they used visual effects to connects the shot of the feet dancing with her rest of the body as the camera goes up :)

Deiner said...
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Deiner said...
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Anonymous said...

I truly do agree that this may just be "it" for her. It's a very interesting performance, though I'm certainly not crazy about it!

Malcolm said...

She was fantastic ! ! !

She was good at first viewing, but extremely amazing in the 2nd viewing. I cannot imagine her losing. I haven't seen Kidman yet, but in this very strong line-up (I believe many would agree, the best line-up in years), she stands out as the triumphant and deserving winner of the gold.

I'm already excited to see the results, but definitely, it's Portman's!

I'm also excited to see the Oscars this year. Unlike last year where everything was a shoo-in. :)

Allen said...

Love this performance. She is just mesmerizing to watch onscreen.