A psychological thriller set in the world of New York City strip clubs, Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as Nina, an exotic dancer who discovers she is the mutant lovechild of giant swans: one white and one black. Besides grappling with the obvious oh-my-god-my-parents-are-birds thing, Nina also struggles with her newfound biracial identity, and like all who are haunted by mixed heritage, she questions the worth of her existence.
Portman gives a wonderfully disturbing performance. From her climatic girl-on-girl “homework” to her willingness to undergo swan leg implant surgery for the Kafkaesque role, her passionate portrayal of a mulatto bird woman is as real as it gets. Black Swan will—without a doubt—alter Portman’s career and sex life.
Director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) does what he does best: craft artistic, edgy films about “don’t ask, don’t tell” matters. With Swan, he unabashedly handles the delicate subject of mixed-race bird freaks with care. Especially attentive is his decision to score the film to a chopped and screwed version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Black Swan is the most important movie about whiteness, blackness, and birdness this year.