Black Swan 101

Natalie Portman in costume for Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Photo: Niko Tavemise / Fox Searchlight Pictures ©

All About Eve meets The Red Shoes? That’s how Darren Aronofsky‘s foray into the ballet world might play out. The director has recently cited both these classics as sources of inspiration, although the movie’s plot line – a ballerina faces her inner demons as she is picked to dance the lead in  Swan Lake – seems to recall yet another vintage movie, 1947′s The Unfinished Dance.

Aronofsky has also indicated Black Swan might be a follow up of sorts to its predecessor, the excellent 2008 Golden Lion winner, The Wrestler, a look at the professional wrestling circuit from the angle of an ageing and decadent “has-been”. His movies often explore how people are shaped by their surroundings as well as the complexity of social interactions, which means we might finally get a sensitive, imaginative and well-observed commentary on the realities of the ballet world, usually a backdrop for lighter entertainment.

Linda and I are huge fans of Aronofsky’s very European directing style – having even referenced him in one of our ballet reviews. For the past few weeks we have been collating Black Swan pieces scattered around the web. So while we wait for the trailer, here’s a link roundup:

Opening Date

Black Swan is set to premiere this fall at the Venice International Film Festival.  The psychological ballet thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) will open the fest on September 1st. Via Rogue Ballerina

Also: the opening date in US Theatres is set for 1 December 2010.

The Cast & Plot

The dark tale with psychological twists stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a technically brilliant ballerina whose life takes some strange turns after being picked as the lead in a New York City [Ballet] production of Swan Lake. Pressures mount as her overbearing mother (Barbara Hershey) pushes her to succeed and her manipulative dance master (Vincent Cassel) commands her to be more seductive and loose in her performance.

Complicating matters is the arrival of Lily (Mila Kunis), a sultry dancer who exhibits all the innate ease and sexuality that Nina lacks. Nina begins to fixate on the newcomer as the two forge an unusual relationship. Via USA Today

Also: Winona Ryder appears as a retiring ballerina. Pennsylvania Ballet dancers feature as the corps de ballet. Portman is doing most of her dance scenes but for the longer shots ABT’s Sarah Lane is her double. ABT’s Maria Riccetto is Mila Kunis’s double. NYCB’s Benjamin Millepied choreographed the dance sequences.

Style & Mood

…director Darren Aronofsky compares the splattery sequence in Black Swan with a gruesome scene in his previous film, The Wrestler, when Mickey Rourke is attacked by a staple-gun-wielding rival. He stresses that his gothic tale with hints of Hitchcock is several grand jettes [sic] away from such ballet-themed soap operas as 1977′s The Turning Point. “Maybe only The Red Shoes had a realistic point of view of this unique world,” Aronofsky says of the 1948 classic. “It captured the human drama and the sacrifice.”  Via USA Today

The Costumes

In what is probably one of the most exciting cinematic collaborations that we’ve heard so far this year, Darren Aronofsky – director of the incredible Requiem For A Dream – has commissioned Rodarte design sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy to create costumes for his psychological thriller about ballet Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.

Their lastest collection looked a touch like unfocused decoupage and may not have been our favourite work by the Mulleavy girls, but it’s entirely conceivable that, as costume designers, they will create some pretty frothy and fabulous looking ballerina garb. Via Pedestrian TV

Further Information

  • Black Swan on IMDB [link]
  • Official Facebook page [link]
  • Darren Aronofsky’s blog [link]
  • Darren Aronofsky’s Wikipedia Entry [link]
  • Aronofsky and Danny Boyle discuss their respective movie styles [link]
  • Black Swan Photo Gallery on Beyond Hollywood [link]

Likes ballets that taste like 85% cocoa: pure, extra bitter, dark or intense. Her favorites are La Sylphide, Manon, Mayerling, Ondine, Symphonic Variations and McGregor's Chroma. Her favorite Ratmansky ballets are: The Little Humpbacked Horse, Russian Seasons, Cinderella and The Shostakovich Trilogy. She is always ready to chase new Ratmanskys around the globe. Non ballet: literature, theatre, opera, rock, art, food, travel, fashion, translating and interpreting.


  • August 5, 2010


    So do I David, I am a big fan & unable to throw away any magazine where Miss Ryder features on the cover (the Harper’s Bazaar one w/ her & Daniel Day-Lewis circa The Crucible is amazing), after all these years she remains on my top 5 list of favorite actresses.

  • August 5, 2010


    I LOVE Winona Ryder !!! She was queen of the movie world until that shoplifting incident. She has been coming back to movies slowly in dark, quirky movies. And her photo shoot in Another Magazine about 3 years ago was so beautiful and sexy.

    To pair her with the equally dark and sexy Natalie Portman in a ballerina movie?? To die for.