Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another untimely review: Black Swan

I would not have seen this movie had my wife not wanted to see it. That's a good thing about being in a relationship--taken to places I would not have gone on my own. I have nothing against ballet as an art form, I've enjoyed a small handful of ballets in my lifetime, but when it comes to investing my entertainment dollar, ballet remains in the recesses of my mind, and probably aided by the dearth of ballet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

My favorite film critic Ann Hornaday (Washington Post) once again prompted me away from resistance to Black Swan, and with an evening away from our children in Spokane, I was ready to take on a film labeled as dark.

If you have yet to see Black Swan, dark isn't the half of it. Any Saturday Night Live fan knows Natalie Portman can take on a dark side in the comedic sense. Any fan of drama/thrillers knows she can execute dark in the relational sense in Closer. Black Swan is not so much about ballet as it is about the inner battle of self. Granted, world-class ballet provides a high pressure backdrop for an inward battle, but this kind of struggle could happen in several professions. However, the contrast between beauty and ugliness in Black Swan is stark and chilling. Winona Ryder (first time I've seen her in an interesting role in years) and Mila Kunis are both up to the high bar set with Portman's performance.

What kept me thinking about this film a week after I viewed it is the presence of mental illness in the film and what a puzzle remains with mental illness. This film is not One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest in that the story operates as an expose of institutional mental illness, but an examination of triggers to mental illness and ruminations about environmental factors, namely extreme levels of competition and hyper self-image awareness.

What I enjoyed about this film also is that it seems so far away from my life in the church. But it really shouldn't be. I could not imagine knowing someone with such struggles as Portman portrays. I wonder how well the church shows grace in lives that are seen in Black Swan. For the time I watched the film, I didn't have to worry about it, but now a part of me is haunted by that possibility.

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