Black Swan

Featured In Issue 156, April 2011

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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Strong sexual content, distrubing violent images, language, and some drug use
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-50)
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Darren Aronofsky
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Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS HD Lossless 7.1
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Black Swan follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in the New York City Ballet trying to make it to the top. When Artistic Director Thomas Leroy (Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), also impresses Leroy and becomes Nina's competition. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly with her innocence and grace, but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan, with her fiery personality. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side, with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her. (Gary Reber)

Special features include the documentary Black Swan Metamorphosis in three chapters (HD 48:55); three featurettes: Ballet (HD 02:33), Production Design (HD 03:59), and Costume Design (HD 03:55); Profile: Natalie Portman (HD 03:16); Profile: Darren Aronofsky (HD 02:47); a conversation with Aronofsky and Portman: Preparing For The Role (HD 03:53); a conversation with Aronofsky and Portman: Dancing With The Camera (HD 01:35); Fox Movie Channel Presents: "In Character With Natalie Portman" (HD 06:22); the theatrical trailer; up-front previews; BD-Live functionality; and a digital copy of the film.

The 2.38:1 1080p AVC picture was shot in the non-normal 16 mm format, with additional footage digitally photographed. This combination uniquely enhances the rawness and haunting realism of the picture, with an overall softer tone compared to 35 mm. Additionally a layer of grain and noise permeates the picture, which apparently is the intention of Director Darren Aronofsky and Cinematographer Matthew Libatique. Furthermore, the entire film was shot hand-held, to enhance the aesthetic realism. While not particularly sharp, the softer aesthetic is the intended look. The color palette is perfectly natural, with well-balanced hues and deep blacks. Shadow delineation at times is weak, with crushed blacks. While definitely softer than 35 mm captures, still, during close-ups facial features and textures are noticeable. The lighting design is dramatic and nicely conceived, which enhances the production sets. The end result is a beautifully presented film that is visually engaging and beautiful in many respects, and disturbingly haunting in its depiction of Nina's nightmarish depths. (Gary Reber)

The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful and holosonic®, with dynamic moments and an aggressive surround presence punctuated with directionalized sound effects, to heighten the sense of nightmarish feelings. The localization and panning of sound effects and atmospherics is seamless and perfectly integrated with the on-screen visuals. Foley effects are impressive. The sounds that are designed to suggest the growing feeling of paranoia and delusions inside Nina's head are effectively creepy and spatially effective. The orchestral music score can be dynamic and powerful, with a wide and deep soundstage that is surround enveloping. The nightclub dance scene is intense, with powerful SPL that engages the entire soundfield, putting you there on the dance floor. This is enhanced with aggressive sound effects and deep, powerful .1 LFE energy. During a rehearsal scene early in the film, as Nina and the others dance, the sound of the piano in the background moves across the soundstage relative to the point of view. The music plays a powerful part in the storytelling and emotional communication. Dialogue is nicely integrated spatially. The recording quality of the various sound elements is wonderful, and the overall impact is dynamic, forceful, and engaging. (Gary Reber)