by Laura Paananen
The much hyped about Darren Aronofsky (‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘The Wrestler’) film, ‘Black Swan’, has finally reached the silver screens of London. The film is set in a highly competitive world of ballet. Centre stage is the New York City Ballet ballerina called Nina (Natalie Portman). When she wins the role of the Swan Queen in the famous ballet ‘Swan Lake’, she inwardly struggles with self confidence and gradually the role of Black Swan slowly start to take over her being. Nina’s desire for perfection seems to hold her back and Lily (Mila Kunis), the new girl in town, is waiting to take over Nina’s place in the spotlight. This setting takes the viewer on a beautiful, but dark, ride into the world of prima ballerinas.
The film has received rave reviews. Portman has already won a Golden Globe for her role as Nina and the film has just earned five Oscar nominations, including Best Actress – Natalie Portman, Best Director – Darren Aronofsky and Best Motion Picture. These nominations and awards are most definitely deserved. ‘Black Swan’ is an extremely beautiful movie. The ballet scenes are shot perfectly and they give a viewer wonderful perspective on the art of ballet. The audience becomes involved in the movement of the dancers through the intimate filming where the complexity of the dance form is visible. There are some candid shots with mirrors, which is brilliant decision from the director as mirrors play an important role in the world of ballet. Despite the beauty, there is a dark cloud over this film. ‘Swan Lake’ is a story with sad ending and, similarly, so is ‘Black Swan’. It has been described as a psychological thriller; it definitely has its scary moments. Nina’s Swan Queen is wild and delicate, dark and light, and most of all it’s a portrait of a person in struggle to achieve extreme perfection.
Tattered beauty is also big part of the world of Rodarte, the New York based fashion brand managed by the sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who designed the ballet costumes for Black Swan. In a recent feature in Elle magazine (Feb 2011), the Mulleavy’s mentioned that they got their inspiration for the costumes from Anna Pavlova’s ‘The Dying Swan’, as well as their own s/s 2010 collection. When the collection was first presented in New York fashion week, in September 2009, the collection portrayed the concept that someone could be both scarred and beautiful. This is also a perfect description of Nina. The costumes needed to make the audience believe that Nina’s struggle is realistic as well as enveloping of her character. The flat tutus reveal the extreme legwork that is part of the appeal in ballet. Not only did they point out the legs, but in the Black Swan’s solo Nina’s hands are also transformed by the Rodarte touch. She quite literally turns into a swan provoking her audience to gasp. Without the hauntingly beautiful costumes, the grand finale of this movie wouldn’t have had that extra something which left the audience in awe, both on and off screen.
But it’s not only ‘Black Swan’ and Rodarte who are bringing ballet back to the fashion world. This week in Paris the top couturiers are presenting their Spring 2011 couture collections. Coco Chanel, who famously worked with the Ballet Russes’ in 1920s, is being honoured for her work by Karl Lagerfeld. The couture collection from the house of Chanel is all about lightness in this season. The feathery light pink gowns and beaded tops and jackets have a certain ‘ballet grace’ to them. Lagerfeld even made the models walk down the runway in ballet flats, which had striking resemblance to those used for training in ballet studios. In the review published in Style.com, Tim Blanks makes a comparison between ‘Swan Lake’ and this beautiful collection of haute couture. It remains to be seen if there is more to come, but at least for now ballet is lightly swirling itself into our notice.
As for the movie… If you are an extreme ballet fanatic, this film gives you a look behind the curtains and into a psyche of a professional dancer. For those who have never much enjoyed ballet, ‘Black Swan’ might just be the push towards booking a ticket to the real ‘Swan Lake’. Or if you are just a fashion addict, it is worth the movie ticket to go and see the beautiful costumes on a big screen. Whatever your interest might be, go and see this film and enjoy the ride.
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Elle (UK) February 2011