When Hollywood decides to depict a specific trade, dramatic license usually trumps veracity. Think all those cop movies truly depict an average day in the life and thinking of a policeman? How about the hilarious world of newspaper hacks in the likes of The Front Page? Black Swan, the new horror film with a ballet backdrop, is no exception. Art Scatter senior correspondent Martha Ullman West argues that if you think this is what the ballet world is really like … well, she can get you a very good deal on a bridge in Brooklyn.
By Martha Ullman West
Black Swan is not a film about ballet.
Oh sure, there are a few shots of point shoes, not to mention bleeding toes, company class, unconvincing rehearsals of small bits of Swan Lake, and Natalie Portman, who richly deserves for her acting (but not her dancing) the Golden Globe award she picked up Sunday night. She spent two years taking ballet classes, and lost a lot of weight for her role.
But here’s the rub. Classical ballet, and director Darren Aronofsky‘s profoundly Puritanical view of the art form, provide the mere framework for a film about a deeply troubled young woman whose cries for help are unheard, or denied, by a mother who thinks only of herself and an employer who seems only to think about sex.