Posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
(Spoiler warning: Since this article is based on a script review, there are spoilers all over, even before the jump. You’re warned.)
There’s a review of Mark Heyman‘s script for Black Swan, soon to be a Darren Aronofsky film starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, over at ScriptShadow. There’s a lot of detail there and some good analysis, but the piece opens with a huge bit of salesmanship that will likely get at least half our readers interested in the film really, really fast: “in this movie, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have sex…And not just nice sweet innocent sex either. We’re talking ecstasy-induced hungry aggressive angry sex.” Does that make all you puerile bastards more interested in a movie about ballerinas? Yeah, I thought so. More after the break.
I don’t always agree with the take of Carson at ScriptShadow, but I at least get where he’s coming from. And in this case, I’m intrigued by the premise and description. Basically, Black Swan sounds like it could be a Don’t Look Now sort of piece — ‘quiet slow burn’ sounds really appropriate, and I’d love to see Aronofsky make that work on screen. He can nail things this script suggests: soft tension, an increasing lack of trust in your own perception, a shaken sense of identity.
We’ve previously run this description: Portman is a veteran ballerina who finds herself locked in to a competitive showdown with a rival dancer, with the stakes and twists increasing as the dancers approach a big performance. Portman’s character is not sure whether her rival is a supernatural apparition or if she is having delusions.
Based on this review, that sounds more or less right. Portman’s character, Nina, is angling for the lead role in Swan Lake, where she’d have to play two halves of one being, the ‘White’ and the ‘Black’. Nina’s overtly sweet nature makes the White a snap, but her director has doubts about her ability with the dark side, and Nina struggles to find the right darkness. Then, as ScriptShadow summarizes:
…she begins noticing another girl around town and at the ballet company who looks exactly like her. But not just “exactly.” We’re talking identical. Yet every time Nina tries to get close, the girl turns away or hides her face. Finally, Nina meets this mysterious doppelganger after rehearsal. Her name is Lily. And while she definitely looks like Nina, she’s by no means an identical replica. Was it Nina’s imagination perhaps?
Nina and Lily begin to revolve around each other, and in her mind Nina’s identity begins to blur with Lily’s. One thing ScriptShadow notes is that the script really takes its time. The thing is 130 pages long, and a good chunk of that is evidently dedicated to creating moments and observing very small action. On the page that probably seems indulgent, but that’s the sort of thing I can see Aronofsky knowing how to work. He’s no slouch when it comes to timing and understanding how a subtle moment can change the tone of a scene. Oh, right, and then there’s the sex. You’re probably already thinking Requiem For A Dream, and who am I to stop you?
The film was put into turnaround by Universal two years ago before Portman’s interest and The Wrestler‘s success helped revive it, and is currently a total independent production. Fox Searchlight may come on board to distribute. Filming will hopefully begin in the fall in New York City.