13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010), image courtesy of Fox Searchlight

3. Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan is fascinated with dualities. To start with, it revolves around the Tchaikovsky ballet, Swan Lake, in which the virtuous heroine, Odette, finds her love for a prince tragically thwarted by her seductive doppelganger, Odile. The movie’s protagonist, an ambitious dancer named Nina Sayers, is chosen to lead a production of Swan Lake and struggles to reconcile her roles as both the White and the Black Swan, a conflict mirrored by her relationship with Lily, a new dancer in the company. Dance itself demands that two apparent opposites – grace and discipline – coexist harmoniously. In Black Swan, high art (ballet) collides with low art (melodrama).

No stranger to tales of madness and self-destruction, director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) navigates the film’s rocky tonal terrain with balletic dexterity. He immerses us in Nina’s point of view, employing frequent tracking shots and jarring edits that distort our perception of reality. The sumptuous production design, at times bordering on monochromatic, and Matthew Libatique’s fluid camerawork create a dreamy aura that makes the intermittent bouts of violence all the more disturbing. In the role that later garnered her an Academy Award, Natalie Portman matches Aronofsky beat for beat, surrendering to the heightened emotion with gusto. Black Swan is an exquisite, ludicrous, and ultimately perfect portrait of the thrill and risk of artistic greatness.

Similar movies: Donnie Darko (2001), Mulholland Drive (2001)