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'Black Swan' is a great thriller

Black Swan


"Noah," the latest film from director Darren Aronofsky, is opening in theatres this month. Based on the trailers, the Biblical story about the great flood seems to have little in common with Aronofsky's celebrated previous film, "Black Swan," which came out in 2010.

"Black Swan" stars Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, a young artist whose life seems to have always been dominated by all things ballet, and there is no evidence that she has any real interest in any other activity, no experience with any people beyond those in the ballet world. Her mother, Erica (played by Barbara Hershey), is a former dancer who clearly has high expectations for her daughter. Devoted to the danger diets that are apparently required of elite dancers, Nina's single focus has resulted in her being very naïve about the world at large and emotionally fragile. According to her director (played by Vincent Cassel), she is very by-the-book in the way she does her dancing, a complete slave to the technique, albeit performing at the highest level. A new dancer, Lily (played by Mila Kunis), who is much more rebellious and free-spirited, joins the company. For the upcoming production of "Swan Lake," Nina gets cast in the lead and becomes more mentally unbalanced as she prepares for the roles of the white swan and black swan. In addition to not being able to satisfy the director or herself, Nina is becomes convinced that Lily is trying to steal her part.

"Black Swan" won Natalie Portman a well-earned Academy Award for her portrayal of a woman who veers from absolute physical control to disintegrating mental control. Mila Kunis is also effective as Lily, who is also a talented dancer with much more command over her full self. Another strong performance is by Winona Ryder, who plays an angry dancer who has to retire as she has gotten too old.

Director Darren Aronofsky earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on the film. He creates many great scenes in which dance becomes replete with suspense.

Offering an unvarnished look at the ballet world, "Black Swan" will appeal to those interested in the arts as well as those intrigued by psychological thrillers.