So my sister deliberately left this DVD at our house because she had given up on watching it. This probably should have given me an initial hint that Black Swan would not just be a slightly edgy drama about the stresses of life as a ballerina.
Instead it turned out to be as disturbing and bleak as mainstream films come. The focus on Nina's obsession with physical degeneration and the horror movie like use of creepy mirrors and hallucinations leaves the viewer unsure of what is reality and which scenes are conjured up by Nina's unstable mind. This rarely makes for pleasant viewing.
The film works on many levels and effortlessly brings together a combination of ugly themes. You could view it as a simple critique of the competitive commercial dance business and the predatory attitudes of certain male managers. One of the reasons for Nina's degeneration is unquestionably the stress of the lead role that she is given and Thomas' attempts to initiate an inappropriate relationship.
Part of the cover that Thomas uses for his advances is the idea that Nina cannot play the titular Black Swan when she is herself so innocent and controlled. The focus on the world famous Swan Lake may appear overdone and cliche to those with a greater familiarity with ballet. However, for those lacking such knowledge it makes things much easier that the film sticks so closely to a clear, well-explained narrative.
Overall I'd say that this was another triumph for Darren Aronofsky and that its apparent weaknesses are simply aspects of his distinctive style. He showed his skill in charting the confusion of a disordered mind in 'Pi' and 'The Fountain' and if that leads to slightly incomprehensible and disturbing films then the beauty of the spectacle and his adaptness in directing certainly compensates for it.