“I seriously question whether Mila Kunis’ character was actually going to dance, I feel like she was a ploy by Thomas to try and inspire jealously into Nina so that she could perform at her best.”
Huh? She did actually dance. What are you saying..?
I also think she was a ploy by Thomas, but not as much as he was a ploy by Aronofsky. Thomas makes this quite clear: he sees Nina dancing and says, essentially, “This is what you’re missing.” Whether this ploy was improvised when Nina shows up or planned from the beginning of the day I can’t say. I don’t think he hires her to enact this plan, however. Aronofsky, on the other hand, does just this.
Well I certainly will not, and cannot, argue that we should sympathize with fictional characters… but in this case, as I said, I believe that Aronofsky employs a sympathetic POV in regard to Nina, namely in the sense that things which scare her are meant to scare us as well. We’re in her head, with her, on the same ride, and when we see her in pain, we recoil. But again, despite this, I believe that we are meant to desire her degradation because we know she is irrational, false, overly serious, yes joyless, etc. Our respective senses of justice lead us to desire the unmasking of false individuals, and for them to own up to reality. Nina, in the end, gets what she wants and no “justice” is served, which leaves me with the impression that the experience of the film is equivocal to gawking at a gory auto wreck. Nina’s irrational view of reality leads to self-destruction, so I suppose in that sense “justice is served,” but that would mean that when the film ends, we should be delighting in her fate. And hell, what sicko would delight in that?
I have no desire to get dogmatic about this, and that lil argument up there is little more than my attempt at a sort of “logical proof” of why I feel the narrative is… oh, I dunno, dishonest, I suppose. In a meta-context I’m sure that strengthens the material all the more. It seems to me to be a sensationalist spectacle. And hey, I’m not saying that’s necessarily worthless or that there aren’t kernels in there I don’t appreciate. I just feel like with all of Aronofsky’s talent and intelligence, he could be putting himself to better use.
Now that I think about it, its not quite a gory auto wreck… it’s much more directly like watching a suicide. A big spectacular suicide. Again, not without value, but not exactly film of the year.
90% of the published reviews about Black Swan have been profoundly disappointing. I don’t care if someone likes the film or not but the constant comparisons to The Red Shoes as if this film was intended to be a coda or companion piece to it and since it’s not it must be a Piece of Shit and/or Failed Attempt; the misplaced complaints about “not enough focusing on the dancing” (it’s not a documentary); and the utterly terrible discussions about camp – was it or wasn’t it?, because it has to be either/or; and the transparent potshots at Aronofsky who’s apparently become too big for his “art” director britches and Must Be Taken Down A Peg by the Critical Establishment are just shitty.
But again, despite this, I believe that we are meant to desire her degradation because we know she is irrational, false, overly serious, yes joyless, etc.
I didn’t get that feeling at all. And if I did, I would not have listened. Have you ever seen Inglourious Basterds? I was saddened when they decided on a massacre. What ever happened to diplomacy? Plus, I’m not about to have someone both dictate my perspective and dictate a contradictory set of things I’m supposed to feel. I didn’t feel that, so it was no problem, but, if it were a Tarantino situation, I’d abstain.
Our respective senses of justice lead us to desire the unmasking of false individuals, and for them to own up to reality.
Not mine! I enjoy a good masked ball.
Nina, in the end, gets what she wants and no “justice” is served, which leaves me with the impression that the experience of the film is equivocal to gawking at a gory auto wreck.
I still don’t see what justice this is supposed to be. She… worked a long time for a part and then played it well. Where’s the justice? Is this the part where I missed someone in the audience scream ’She’s a witch! Burn her! Burn her!"?
Nina’s irrational view of reality leads to self-destruction, so I suppose in that sense “justice is served,” but that would mean that when the film ends, we should be delighting in her fate. And hell, what sicko would delight in that? … it’s much more directly like watching a suicide. A big spectacular suicide. Again, not without value, but not exactly film of the year.
Spectacular suicide, hmm. Reminds me of A Zed and Two Noughts. Must be a better film than I thought!
Too bad I don’t believe she killed herself. And, anyway, if she did it I don’t know if you could classify it as suicide. First of all, it was in a fit of delusion, so she wasn’t psychologically fit to be culpable for her actions. Secondly, she was trying to stab someone else, so it was accidental. Thirdly, I don’t even know if she stabbed herself at all! You know how she definitely stabs Kunis’ character and drags her into the next room, only to find out a bit later that she never did? Well we never see what happens a bit after she definitely bleeds out (at an alarmingly increasing rate, no less) on a mattress.
Not close to my favorite film of the year, but I seem to have a completely different take on it, as well.
I think Beneezy makes an interesting point, as well, that being that ballet needs to make more use of the slick flooring.
90% of the published reviews about Black Swan have been profoundly disappointing.
I felt this way with regard to Enter the Void.
Then I dug through like 100.
I found 1 suitable one.
I assure you that your percentage is far too generous!
“The problem, people, is that BLACK SWAN is a trite bag of Reality/Fantasy Sanity/Madness horror cliches. The penny drops really quick that little Nina is barking batshit crazy, and the movie has nowhere to go but straight up its own ass, where for all I care it can just bloody well stay.”
Well, I can’t disagree with the above. Also, the film is hopelessly predictable. As for the film being horror, well, it’s not the type of horror for which I have high praise, that’s for certain. Sticking knitting needles in your face isn’t horror, it’s just self-mutilation garbage, much like “The Happening”. It’s also funny how I have witnessed little if any praise here for the non-performance of Mila Kunis, possibly because her whining soap opera shenanigans are indefensible. Can you believe she’s actually received awards and nominations for her one-dimensional interpretation of a trashy bar-hopping tart? To quote “The Bridge On The River Kwai”: madness!
I must say, I didn’t appreciate the digital look of this film, either: it looked terribly grainy and really clashed with the subject matter of the film (I’m generally not a fan of digital anyway). I mean, dance films just shouldn’t be filmed in digital. “The Wrestler” managed to get away with it, but “B.S.” in digital just seemed a tad incongruous. Forget about the storyline and acting for a moment: how bad must this film be when it’s not even much fun to admire for its visuals?
-I must say, I didn’t appreciate the digital look of this film, either: it looked terribly grainy and really clashed with the subject matter of the film (I’m generally not a fan of digital anyway). I mean, dance films just shouldn’t be filmed in digital. “The Wrestler” managed to get away with it, but “B.S.” in digital just seemed a tad incongruous. Forget about the storyline and acting for a moment: how bad must this film be when it’s not even much fun to admire for its visuals?-
I somewhat agree with you about the qualities of the “look” of the film clashing with the material, Mark. However, I think you’re misattributing some of this to digital. Much of the visual texture of the film (and The Wrestler as well) comes from the fact that much of it was shot in 16mm with 12-18 mm lenses.
Matt, that’s very interesting about BS being shot on 16mm, thanks for the info. Has anyone mentioned Lars von Trier as being one of the millions of influences on BS? I kept being reminded of his work while watching the film, I certainly needed something to keep awake. BS felt a good deal like von Trier’s THE KINGDOM, I thought.
BS = Black Swan, not bullshit. Got it.
BS is such a flexible acronym, isn’t it?
I think someone did mention von Trier somewhere . . . not sure if it was this thread or one of the couple others that is ongoing, though. I definitely see some connection between the two—not sure if this is intentional on Aronofsky’s part or just an accident commonalities of Aronofsky pursuing post-vérité via the brothers Dardenne and von Trier working in a post-vérité, post-Dogme manifesto mode.
Sounds very much like Requiem, a bunch of over the top stuff with no sense of actual reality and technichal trickery happens and I just couldn’t care less, he’s a technichal trickerster not a film maker, he should make adverts or porn or something degenerate, something he’d actually be good at. I found myself rolling my eyes over and over, by the sound of these “are they real, are they imagined” (lazy) scenes they’d have the same effect. If there is no feeling of a concrete reality I just don’t care what is happening on screen.
in regards to the look, i thought it worked well enough…… i especially liked the super jittery behind-the-back shots. and come on, some of the “scares” (as aronofsky calls them) were great, i.e. when she sees her mother sleeping after masturbating. the conceit is not original, but the image of that woman sleeping with her chin up… very weird, i thought…
Maybe it would help to keep the discussion moving forward by trying to keep the opinions attached to specifics from the film.
-color palette (major: black and white, minor: pink and green)
-reliance of close-ups (Aronofsky: for me, the close-up is one of the great inventions of the 20th century; it allows an audience to sit in a dark room and stare into the eyes of a person who’s emoting without being self-conscious.)
-mirror shots . . . both this kind
and this kind
-16 mm rather than the more aesthetically glamorous 35 mm one would expect and normally would see in a film set in a ballet company.
bah, close ups are the worst
Yes, Allan . . . or at least, as David and others have pointed out, they offer a different sense of physical embodiedness than masters, which better approximate the visual experience of ballet:
Allan is a mockery of himself, so let’s not give him too much credence.
One of my favorite shots of the film is when Portman comes off stage and we see her acting while in the background we see the performance of a set of ballerinas with their synchronized movements. They are background, but what a spectacular background to have. And, thus, the reason why you choose such a setting. This used to be common back in the studio days, you pick your subject, pick your genre, and then assemble the pieces. Today not so much, it seems. Aronofsky seemed to do that in triplicate in The Fountain with a glamorous period setting, a technical contemporary setting, and a fantastical sci-fi setting.
My favorite thing in the whole film is still the opening dream, not sure how anyone else feels about it.
-You pick your subject, pick your genre, and then assemble the pieces.-
Yeah, actually, this screenplay had been in development for quite a while. Seperately, Aronofsky had been working on doing an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Double. It was originally about a theater company, but Aronofsky apparently became interested in doing a ballet film after seeing a production of Swan Lake , so the action was transposed to a ballet company.
I read something that said that Aronofsky was interested in doing a ballet film because he himself was as trained ballerina but had to give it up, so he was really just fulfilling his dream by proxy, in a way.
Of course, I made that up, but, still, it’s a good story.
I guess they don’t do a lot of close ups in the Step up movies huh allan?
I do wish it had had more to do with the “black swan theory” in science.
I generally like cinema where the camera stays somewhat detached, I don’t very much like close ups and I wasn’t talking about this film specifically when saying it. Also I meant it in jest, which I thought somewhat obvious from the banality of what I said, should have probably ended it with one of these bwad bwoys ;) I thought the ‘bah’ would do. Sorry.
Also I clearly haven’t watched the film (which yea does make me somewhat of a mockery I guess – but it does by a lot of peoples reactions sound very much like Requiem – Formally at least), nor have I (why would I) watch the step up films, so um yeaaaa.
-I meant it in jest, which I thought somewhat obvious from the banality of what I said-
Ditto to what Roscoe said: thanks for the inside stuff on the camera and film used for “B.S.”, Matt.
I must say, I would’ve preferred it if we had fewer “back of the head” shots in this film. Why not show Natalie Portman’s face more often, when she’s so expressive and attractive? Aronofsky did this a lot with Mickey Rourke for “The Wrestler”, so it’s obviously a trademark of his. But I think this can be overused and may even become tiresome.
“The Fountain” is being revived later this year at the Astor so I will be certain to give it a shot, and it does sound somewhat intriguing.
Ben, can you share about the “black swan” theory in science?
What the hell happened to Leaves?
The Black Swan Theory or “Theory of Black Swan Events” was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:
-The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology
-The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to their very nature of small probabilities)
-The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.
Unlike the earlier philosophical “black swan problem”, the “Black Swan Theory” (capitalized) refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively play vastly larger roles than regular occurrences.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
I was thinking that as well, Frog Moth.
My general observations about Aaronofsky’s cinematography, which seemed pretty meticulous to me. For instance:
The shots from behind her head were almost always used to direct the audience’s eyes in the direction where she’s looking (i.e. at someone she’s conversing with, at her destination, at the stage when she’s preparing to enter from the wings, etc.)
The rapid, jittery hand-held camera movement was used almost exclusively when Nina was rushing somewhere. These follow shots were jarring, as they emphasized the sense of urgency and discomfort Nina has in her transitional moments. However, they were far from the only type of shot that was used.
During the practice sequences, and the actual dance sequences, there are lots of fast, but steady, swooping camera movements. Aaronofsky places us in the role of an engaged observer during the dance, as if the audience is another dancer, observing from within the movement of the performance. Yes, this is very different from the Archers’ decision to put us in the role of the audience, watching over the performance with a critical eye; in The Red Shoes, we’re basically the critic, marveling at how spectacular the performance is. Very different from BS.
Incidentally, Aaronofsky also puts us in the middle of the performance during the club scene, where we’re expected to share the experience of being thrown around with the other revelers.
The close-ups are mostly of faces (the classic use of the close-up), or of objects of obsession. Their frequency is linked to the overriding theme that these dancers are essentially body-dismorphic fetishists, hyper-aware of their feet and their skin.
Seems to me that this was a very “embodied” type of film, where we’re asked to identify directly with Nina, rather than taking up a detached-observer position. Like Noe did with Enter the Void, but less gimmicky. But aside from those exceptions, which take on exaggerated importance, Aaronofsky follows cinematography 101 most of the time. The rest of the shots are straightforward medium shots to follow the action, and longer establishing shots to provide spatial context.