Horror at the ballet

Black Swan

Fox Searchlight

Rating: 14A

108 minutes

Natalie Portman puts in an incredible performance as a ballerina losing her mind in Black Swan.

Her character dances ballet with perfection, but without emotion. Even so, the ballet director, a smug and manipulative character well played by Vincent Cassel, picks her to dance the lead role in his new production of Swan Lake at the Lincoln Center.

Apparently Portman practiced ballet for 10 months before the cameras rolled and she is enormously convincing as a dancer. Even when the movie goes over the top towards the end, she is still convincing as an obsessive/compulsive perfectionist going mad. She’s already won a Golden Globe for her performance and has the inside track for an Oscar.

As director Darren Aronosky showed in 2008 with The Wrestler, he makes visually powerful and dramatic films. Mila Kunis is effective as a rival dancer, an almost unrecognizable Winona Ryder plays a faded ballerina and Barbara Hershey ranges from loving to sinister as Portman’s overprotective mother pushing her daughter to succeed where she failed.

This movie toys with your mind and you often don’t know if what you are seeing is real, or a hallucination in Portman’s character’s imagination. A couple of times it’s ludicrous. Sometimes it is, literally, a horror film. Many times, when Portman is doing herself damage with her nails or other sharp objects, this movie is not easy to watch, nor very enjoyable. It is impressive, but not for all tastes.

Rating: four deer out of five

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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.