Black Swan (film)
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Not to be confused with the 1942 swashbuckler film The Black Swan (film).
The poster for the film shows Natalie Portman with white facial makeup, black-winged eye liner around bloodshot red eyes, and a jagged crystal tiara.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Produced by Scott Franklin
Screenplay by Mark Heyman
Story by Andres Heinz
Starring Natalie Portman
Music by Clint Mansell
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Editing by Andrew Weisblum
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s) December 3, 2010 (2010-12-03)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Budget $13 million
Gross revenue $172,622,903
Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, and Mila Kunis. Its plot revolves around a production of Swan Lake by a prestigious New York City ballet company. As is usual with all productions of the ballet, the production requires a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. One dancer, Nina (Portman), is a perfect fit for the White Swan, while Lily (Kunis) has a personality that matches the Black Swan. When the two compete for the parts, Nina finds a dark side to herself.
Aronofsky conceived the premise by connecting his viewings of a production of Swan Lake with an unrealized screenplay about understudies and the notion of being haunted by a double, similar to the folklore surrounding doppelgängers. The director also considered Black Swan a companion piece to his 2008 film The Wrestler, with both films involving demanding performances for different kinds of art. He and Portman first discussed the project in 2000, and after a brief attachment to Universal Pictures, Black Swan was produced in New York City in 2009 by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Portman and Kunis trained in ballet for several months prior to filming and notable figures from the ballet world helped with film production to shape the ballet presentation. The film premiered as the opening film for the 67th Venice International Film Festival on September 1, 2010. It had a limited release in the United States starting December 3, 2010 and opened nationwide on December 17.
This article's plot summary may be too long or overly detailed. Please help improve it by removing unnecessary details and making it more concise. (February 2011)
A New York City ballet company is preparing for the production of Swan Lake, choosing to cast a new lead to replace current star Beth MacIntyre as the Swan Queen. However, the lead must maintain an adequate portrayal of both the White and Black Swans. Nina Sayers, a dancer, is picked to compete for the part alongside several other young dancers, including newcomer Lily. Nina lives with her caring but overbearing mother Erica, a failed dancer turned amateur artist who, while loving and highly supportive of her career, tries to control much of Nina's life.
The ballet director, Thomas Leroy, is reluctant to cast Nina. He claims her rigid technique makes her an ideal casting for the White Swan, but she lacks the passion of the darkly sensual Black Swan. When he forces a kiss on her, she bites him and Thomas sees her capacity for passion and gives her the role.
He presents her as his new star during a benefit gala. On her way out, Nina is confronted by a drunken Beth who has obviously been crying. Beth has harsh words for the new star, and brings Nina to tears. Thomas returns just in time to console the young ballerina. Nina then hears that Beth jumped in front of a car that night, but Thomas tells her that it's not her fault and that Beth is a very dark and dramatic actress.
Nina displays a number of psychotic symptoms, including strong delusions and elaborate visual hallucinations. She begins to feel paranoid that Lily, her understudy, is determined to take the lead away from her. Thomas, meanwhile, becomes increasingly critical of Nina's "frigid" dancing as the Black Swan, and tells her that she should stop being such a perfectionist and simply lose herself in the Black Swan role.
Lily appears at Nina's door and convinces her to share a night out. During the night out, she takes drugs and becomes more interested in Lily than the men at the bar. Upon returning to Nina's apartment, Nina hallucinates that Lily is with her. After an enraged argument with her mother, Nina hallucinates that she has passionate sex with Lily after barricading her room to keep her overprotective mother from entering. Nina wakes up alone the next morning, and rushes to make it on time to rehearsal. When she enters the studio, she finds Lily dancing as the Swan Queen in her absence. Furious, Nina confronts Lily, and asks her why she did not wake her up in the morning. Lily states that she spent the night with a man whom she met at the club and teases Nina for fantasizing about her.
The night before the ballet's opening, Nina is rehearsing late and continues to experience strong visual hallucinations, such as her reflection acting independent of her and of Lily and Thomas having sex together backstage. Before heading home, she visits the hospital with Beth's makeup bag and tries to convince her that she's perfect. Beth, on the other hand, disbelieves Nina's kind comment and stabs herself in the cheek with a nail file. Beth then turns into Nina and starts yelling at her "you're not perfect!" while repeatedly stabbing herself in the face (while Beth is still Nina). Nina runs to the elevator in horror and realizes that she has the bloodied file. Horrified, she drops it and leaves in shock.
When she returns home, she goes into the kitchen and turns on the light. She hears whispering and turns the light back on. She sees herself in the corner with a bloody face and in Beth's clothes from the hospital. Nina runs into the bathroom and vomits. She goes into her mother's room and sees her mother's paintings speaking and mocking her. She also notices that the rash on her shoulder has worsened, with little black barbs poking through her skin. Nina pulls one of the barbs from her skin, and it appears to be a black feather. Nina's eyes appear to turn into reddish swan eyes and her legs violently contort into the shape of a swan's. As she tries to steady herself, she falls and knocks herself out on her bedpost.
Nina awakes the night of the opening performance, locked in her bedroom with her mother. Nina's mother tells her that she called the company and informed them that Nina wasn't feeling well and will not be able to perform. After violently forcing her mother to let her leave, Nina arrives at the theater and immediately prepares herself as the White Swan.
The first act goes well until Nina is distracted by a hallucination and the glare of the overhead lights; the Prince drops Nina while dancing onstage. Distraught, Nina returns to her dressing room and finds Lily there, dressed in the Black Swan costume. As Lily announces her intention to play the Black Swan, she changes form into Nina herself. Nina and her duplicate wrestle, with Nina shoving her into a full-length mirror, and during the ensuing scuffle, takes a shard of the mirror and stabs her duplicate, killing her. Upon realizing what she has done, she sees that the body is Lily's. After hiding Lily's body, Nina returns to the stage and dances the Black Swan (the third act of Swan Lake), passionately and sensually, growing black feathers all over her body as she dances, her arms becoming black wings as she finally loses herself and transforms into a black swan. At the end of the act, she receives a standing ovation from the audience, appearing normal from their point of view. When she leaves the stage, she finds Thomas and kisses him with seductive power for the first time.
Back in her dressing room, she is interrupted by a knock at her door and opens it to see Lily, who has come to congratulate her. Nina realizes the fight was another hallucination; however, the mirror is still shattered. She notices a wound on her body and realizes that she apparently stabbed herself as the White Swan, not Lily. Back on stage, Nina dances passionately and seamlessly in the fourth and final act as the White Swan. In the last moments of the ballet, when the Swan is supposed to kill herself by jumping off a cliff on the stage, she spots her mother in the audience before jumping and the audience erupts in thunderous applause while the cast discovers Nina lying on the safety mattress backstage. After Thomas enthusiastically congratulates her on her performance, Lily gasps in horror as she, Thomas, and the cast see that Nina is covered in blood. Though Nina lies wounded and perhaps dying, she feels content that everything she went through helped her to achieve a perfect performance. The film draws to a close with Nina staring up at the stage lights while whispering "I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect," as the screen fades to white and the audience chants her name.
Mila Kunis poses in a white dress
Mila Kunis was first approached to perform in Black Swan in 2008. She and co-star Natalie Portman spent six months training and toning their bodies before filming began.
* Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers
* Mila Kunis as Lily
* Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy
* Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers
* Winona Ryder as Beth MacIntyre
* Benjamin Millepied as David
* Ksenia Solo as Veronica
* Kristina Anapau as Galina
* Janet Montgomery as Madeline
* Sebastian Stan as Andrew
* Toby Hemingway as Tom
* Sergio Torrado as Sergio
Aronofsky first discussed with Portman the possibility of a ballet film in 2000, and he found she was interested in playing a ballet dancer. Portman explained being part of Black Swan, "I'm trying to find roles that demand more adulthood from me because you can get stuck in a very awful cute cycle as a woman in film, especially being such a small person." Portman suggested to Aronofsky that her good friend Mila Kunis would be perfect for the role. Kunis contrasted Lily with Nina, "My character is very loose... She's not as technically good as Natalie's character, but she has more passion, naturally. That's what [Nina] lacks." The female characters are directed in the Swan Lake production by Thomas Leroy, played by Cassel. He compared his character to George Balanchine, who co-founded New York City Ballet and was "a control freak, a true artist using sexuality to direct his dancers".
Portman and Kunis started training six months before the start of filming in order to attain a body type and muscle tone more similar to those of professional dancers. Portman worked out for five hours a day, doing ballet, cross-training, and swimming. A few months closer to filming, she began choreography training. Kunis engaged in cardio and Pilates, "train[ing] seven days a week, five hours, for five, six months total, and ... was put on a very strict diet of 1,200 calories a day." She lost 20 pounds from her normal weight of about 117 pounds, and reported that Portman "became smaller than I did." Kunis said, "I did ballet as a kid like every other kid does ballet. You wear a tutu and you stand on stage and you look cute and twirl. But this is very different because you can't fake it. You can't just stay in there and like pretend you know what you're doing. Your whole body has to be structured differently." Georgina Parkinson, a ballet mistress from the American Ballet Theatre, coached the actors in ballet. For certain scenes, American Ballet Theatre soloists Sarah Lane and Maria Riccetto were "dance doubles" for Portman and Kunis respectively. At other times, Kimberly Prosa serves as the body double for Portman. Aronofsky said during filming about Portman's ballet performance, "She was able to pull it off. Except for the wide shots when she has to be en pointe for a real long time, it's Natalie on screen. I haven't used her double a lot."
Benjamin Millepied, a principal dancer from New York City Ballet, debuted in Black Swan as both actor and choreographer. In addition to the soloist performances, members of the Pennsylvania Ballet were cast as the corps de ballet, backdrop for the main actors' performances. Also appearing in the film are Kristina Anapau, Toby Hemingway, Sebastian Stan, and Janet Montgomery.
A photograph of a performance of Swan Lake during the third act, with the protagonist transformed into the Black Swan
Scene from the ballet Swan Lake in which the Black Swan (Odile) tricks and seduces the Prince
Darren Aronofsky first became interested in ballet when his sister studied dance at the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. The basic idea for the film started when he hired screenwriters to rework a screenplay called The Understudy, which was about off-Broadway actors and explored the notion of being haunted by a double. Aronofsky said the screenplay had elements of the film All About Eve, Roman Polanski's film The Tenant, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novella The Double. The director had also seen numerous productions of Swan Lake, and he connected the duality of the White Swan and the Black Swan to his script. When researching for production of Black Swan, he found ballet to be "a very insular world" whose dancers were "not impressed by movies". Regardless, the director found active and inactive dancers to share their experiences with him. He also stood backstage to see the Bolshoi Ballet perform at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Aronofsky called Black Swan a companion piece to his previous film The Wrestler, recalling one of his early projects about a love affair between a wrestler and a ballerina. He eventually separated the wrestling and the ballet worlds as "too much for one movie". He compared the two films: "Wrestling some consider the lowest art—if they would even call it art—and ballet some people consider the highest art. But what was amazing to me was how similar the performers in both of these worlds are. They both make incredible use of their bodies to express themselves." About the psychological thriller nature of Black Swan, actress Natalie Portman compared the film's tone to Polanski's 1968 film Rosemary's Baby, while Aronofsky said Polanski's Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976) were "big influences" on the final film. Actor Vincent Cassel also compared Black Swan to Polanski's early works and additionally compared it to David Cronenberg's early works.
In 2010, Aronofsky acknowledged there being similarities between the 1997 anime film Perfect Blue and his film Black Swan, but said it was not an influence.
 Development and filming
A three-quarters view of a large grey building—the State University of New York at Purchase Performing Arts Center
Filming took place at the State University of New York at Purchase Performing Arts Center
Aronofsky and Portman first discussed the ballet film in 2000, though the script was yet to be written. He told her about the love scene between competing ballet dancers, and Portman recalled, "I thought that was very interesting because this movie is in so many ways an exploration of an artist's ego and that narcissistic sort of attraction to yourself and also repulsion with yourself." On the decade's wait before production, she said, "The fact that I had spent so much time with the idea ... allowed it to marinate a little before we shot." When Aronofsky proposed a detailed outline of Black Swan to Universal Pictures, the studio decided to fast-track development of the project in January 2007. The project did not come together at the studio, and Aronofsky would go on to shoot The Wrestler instead. After finishing The Wrestler in 2008, he asked Mark Heyman, who had worked for him on the film, to write Black Swan. By June 2009, Universal had placed the project in turnaround, generating attention from other studios and specialty divisions, particularly with actress Portman attached to star. Black Swan began development under Protozoa Pictures and Overnight Productions, the latter financing the film. In July 2009, Kunis was cast.
Fox Searchlight Pictures became the distributor for Black Swan. The film was given a production budget of $10–12 million, and principal photography began in New York City toward the end of 2009. Part of filming took place at the Performing Arts Center at State University of New York at Purchase. Aronofsky filmed Black Swan with a muted palette and a grainy style intended to be similar to The Wrestler.
 Costume design controversy
Amy Westcott is credited as the costume designer and received several award nominations. A publicized controversy arose regarding the question of who had designed 40 ballet costumes for Portman and the dancers. An article in the British The Independent suggested those costumes had actually been created by Rodarte's Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Westcott challenged that view and stated that in all only 7 costumes, among them the black and white swan, had been created in a collaboration between Rodarte, Westcott, and Aronofsky. Furthermore, the corps ballet's costumes were designed by Zack Brown (for the American Ballet Theater), and slightly adapted by Westcott and her costume design department. Westcott said: "Controversy is too complimentary a word for two people using their considerable self-publishing resources to loudly complain about their credit once they realized how good the film is."
Black Swan: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Clint Mansell
Released November 30, 2010 (2010-11-30)
Genre Contemporary classical
Label Sony Masterworks
Clint Mansell chronology
(2010) Black Swan
Black Swan: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack marks the fifth consecutive collaboration between Aronofsky and English composer Clint Mansell. Mansell attempted to score the film based on Tchaikovsky's ballet, but with radical changes to the music. Because of the use of Tchaikovsky's music, the score was deemed ineligible to be entered into the 2010 Academy Awards for Best Original Score. The film also featured various new pieces of music by English production duo The Chemical Brothers, although they are not featured on the official soundtrack.
No. Title Length
1. "Nina's Dream" 2:48
2. "Mother Me" 1:06
3. "The New Season" 2:39
4. "A Room of Her Own" 1:56
5. "A New Swan Queen" 3:28
6. "Lose Yourself" 2:08
7. "Cruel Mistress" 3:29
8. "Power, Seduction, Cries" 1:42
9. "The Double" 2:20
10. "Opposites Attract" 3:45
11. "Night of Terror" 8:01
12. "Stumbled Beginnings..." 3:51
13. "It's My Time" 1:30
14. "A Swan Is Born" 1:38
15. "Perfection" 5:45
16. "A Swan Song (For Nina)" 6:23
Natalie Portman looks to the camera's left, smiling
Portman at a premiere for the film at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival
Black Swan had its world premiere as the opening film at the 67th Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2010. It received a standing ovation whose length Variety said made it "one of the strongest Venice openers in recent memory". The festival's artistic director Marco Mueller had chosen Black Swan over The American (starring George Clooney) for opening film, saying, "[It] was just a better fit... Clooney is a wonderful actor, and he will always be welcome in Venice. But it was as simple as that." Black Swan screened in competition and is the third consecutive film directed by Aronofsky to premiere at the festival, following The Fountain and The Wrestler. In addition, Black Swan was one of seven films nominated for the Queer Lion prize, to be awarded to the best film with "homosexual themes or queer interests", though En el futuro (In The Future) by Argentinian director Mauro Andrizzi won the prize.
Black Swan was presented in a sneak screening at the Telluride Film Festival on September 5, 2010. It also had a Gala screening at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival later in the month. In October 2010, Black Swan was screened at the New Orleans Film Festival, the Austin Film Festival, and the BFI London Film Festival. In November 2010, the film was screened at American Film Institute's AFI Fest in Los Angeles and the Denver Film Festival.
The release of Black Swan in the United Kingdom was brought forward from February 11 to January 21, 2011. According to The Independent, the film is one of "the most highly anticipated" of late 2010. The newspaper compared it to the 1948 ballet film The Red Shoes in having "a nightmarish quality ... of a dancer consumed by her desire to dance".
 Box office
The film had a limited release in select cities in North America on December 3, 2010 in 18 theaters. The film took in a total of $415,822 on its opening day, averaging $23,101 per theater. By the end of its opening weekend it grossed $1,443,809—$80,212 per theater. The per location average was the second highest for the opening weekend of 2010 behind The King's Speech. The film has Fox Searchlight Pictures highest per-theater average gross ever, and it ranks 21st on the all-time list. On its second weekend the film expanded to 90 theaters, and grossed $3.3 million, ranking it as the sixth film at the box-office. In its third weekend, it expanded again to 959 theaters and grossed $8,383,479. By its eighth weekend of release, it had expanded into 2,407 theaters and raised its over-all domestic total to $83,250,375.
Scott Franklin, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Darren Aronofsky, and a moderator stand on a stage with a golden curtain backdrop wearing formal attire and discussing Black Swan
Black Swan cast and crew (from left to right: producer Scott Franklin, actress Mila Kunis, actor Vincent Cassel, director Darren Aronofsky) discuss the film with a moderator at the BFI London Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Film
Black Swan has received widespread acclaim from film critics. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 88 percent of 243 critics have given the film a positive review, holding an average score of 8.2/10 with particular praise for Portman's performance. According to the website, the film's critical consensus is, "Bracingly intense, passionate, and wildly melodramatic, Black Swan glides on Darren Aronofsky's bold direction – and a bravura performance from Natalie Portman." Review aggregate Metacritic has given the film a weighted score of 79, based on 41 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".
In September 2010, Entertainment Weekly reported that based on reviews from the film's screening at the Venice Film Festival, "[Black Swan] is already set to be one of the year’s most love-it-or-hate-it movies." Reuters described the early response to the film as "largely positive" with Portman's performance being highly praised. The Sydney Morning Herald reported, "The film divided critics. Some found its theatricality maddening, but most declared themselves 'swept away'."
A line outside the entrance to the 2010 Venice International Film Festival with flags of several countries waving above the door
Black Swan opened at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, making it the third consecutive Aronofsky film to be screened at the ceremony. It was nominated for the Golden Lion and Mila Kunis won the Marcello Mastroianni Award.
Kurt Loder of Reason Magazine called the film "wonderfully creepy," and wrote that "it's not entirely satisfying; but it's infused with the director's usual creative brio, and it has a great dark gleaming look." Mike Goodridge from Screen Daily called Black Swan "alternately disturbing and exhilarating" and described the film as a hybrid of The Turning Point and Polanski's films Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby. Goodridge described Portman's performance, "[She] is captivating as Nina ... she captures the confusion of a repressed young woman thrown into a world of danger and temptation with frightening veracity." The critic also commended Cassel, Kunis, and Hershey in their supporting roles, particularly comparing Hershey to Ruth Gordon in the role of "the desperate, jealous mother". Goodridge praised Libatique's cinematography with the dance scenes and the psychologically "unnerving" scenes: "It's a mesmerising psychological ride that builds to a gloriously theatrical tragic finale as Nina attempts to deliver the perfect performance."
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a mixed review. He wrote, "[Black Swan] is an instant guilty pleasure, a gorgeously shot, visually complex film whose badness is what's so good about it. You might howl at the sheer audacity of mixing mental illness with the body-fatiguing, mind-numbing rigors of ballet, but its lurid imagery and a hellcat competition between two rival dancers is pretty irresistible." Honeycutt commended Millepied's "sumptuous" choreography and Libatique's "darting, weaving" camera work. The critic said of the thematic mashup, "Aronofsky ... never succeeds in wedding genre elements to the world of ballet ... White Swan/Black Swan dynamics almost work, but the horror-movie nonsense drags everything down the rabbit hole of preposterousness."
The film appears on many critics' top 10 lists of 2010. It was also featured on the American Film Institute's 10 Movies of the Year.
The Canadian Press reported that some Canadian ballet dancers felt that the film depicted dancers negatively and exaggerated elements of their lives but gave Portman high marks for her dance technique.
On January 25, 2011 the film was nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing).
 Awards and nominations
* List of accolades received by Black Swan
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 External links
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Black Swan (film)
* Official website
* Black Swan at the Internet Movie Database
* Black Swan at Metacritic
* Black Swan at Rotten Tomatoes
* Interview with Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky