21 Jan 2011
Lessons learned from Black Swan
Deadly Movies Reviews (of sorts) | Black Swan (2010)
Claustrophobia: Aronofsky’s stylistic approach here is to not give Natalie Portman’s Nina or the audience any room to breath. The camera is in her face the entire time. We, and Nina, are kept locked in close frame for most of the movie. We barely get any release or relief from this tight claustrophobic atmosphere. What does this achieve? It achieves a heightened sense of tension for us and the character. Meaning that a simple fingernail or toenail tear is more excruciating than many gross-out kills which are the easy fallback for contemporary horror.
Ambiguity: Too many modern horrors rely heavily on stupid twists or reveals to present us with a truth.., or the ‘it was me all along’ moment. There is nothing wrong with keeping the audience guessing. The ending, and events leading up to the ending, of ‘Black Swan‘ are puzzling and disorientating. You can question not only the ending, but most of the events in the film. It leaves the audience gasping for breath when the credits role.
Simplicity: This was a horrible experience that happened to one girl as she, and everyone else, went about their daily business. You don’t have to be stranded in hillbilly land without mobile signal, you don’t have to encounter supernatural creatures, you don’t have to be the sole survivor or a zombie apocalypse. All of those conventions are fine and work. But there are other ways, simpler ways, of conveying horror.
These are just a few of my thoughts. Some modern horror is tremendous. Most is, sadly, awful. Aronofsky may not have delivered a modern horror classic (I’m sure that wasn’t the intention anyway) but ‘Black Swan‘ does show us how effective simple techniques can be in producing truly horrific scenarios.