Film Blasphemy: Black Swan

Dan Leigh 30 January 2014

Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan continues to baffle me, but not because it is “complex” and “weird”. It took 2010/11 by storm, won an Academy Award and received widespread critical praise, despite being absolute rubbish. Total, go-back-to-film-school rubbish. I cannot emphasise enough how bad a film Black Swan is. So why does no one else seem to think so?

Black Swan is unremarkable and obvious. A woman has a nervous breakdown. That is it. This in itself does not constitute a complex psychological portrait of a person, but this is all we get. She does hallucinate, but save one moment towards the end the lines between reality and hallucination are abundantly clear. And just in case this was too subtle for everyone, Aronofsky has Mila Kunis personify the black swan in perpetual black dress, while Natalie Portman wears white. I wonder what this colour-symbolism signifies. Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her portrayal of Nina Sayers, a performance that consisted of crying a bit, whinging a bit, masturbating a bit, and turning into a swan a bit. Her character was so flat and boring that I had no interest in what I knew was going to happen to her from the very title of the film. How on earth she beat Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone to the award I will never know.

The scares are cheap and clichéd (good examples of ‘cattle-prod cinema’) and the special effects are awful (Portman’s transformation into a swan was laughable). There are some genuinely mindboggling films out there: try anything by Charlie Kaufman or David Lynch. Black Swan is simply a blatant, unintelligent, boring and poorly made piece of work.