Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan had been highly anticipated by serious film fans, and it lives up to our expectations. Natalie Portman stars as a naive and repressed ballerina preparing for a production of Swan Lake. Portman's character is encouraged to lose herself in the role of the Swan Queen, and she responds with hallucinations, mutilations, and paranoia. As in Aronofsky's previous film, The Wrestler, the central character is committed to an intensely physically demanding performance.
Like all ballet films, Black Swan owes a debt to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes, though Aronofsky takes Powell and Pressburger's surreal fantasy and turns it up to eleven. Visually (and literally, with mirrors and doubles) reflecting the delusions of its central character, the atmosphere is unashamedly Expressionist, evoking Roman Polanski's Repulsion and even (especially in a violent stabbing with a glass shard) the giallo thrillers of Dario Argento.
The film also feels rather Hitchcockian, and Hitchcock used the doppelganger concept in The Case Of Mr Pelham. The theme of the jealous understudy surely comes from All About Eve. It's all completely over-the-top and thoroughly entertaining, a welcome return to the disturbing psychological intensity of Aronofsky's earlier films Pi and Requiem For A Dream, after the disappointment of The Fountain.