TIFF: Dancing in the Dark


There is one chief reason that Black Swan will be one of the most talked about movies of 2010. It's as beautiful as it is terrifying. And oh yeah, there's a second reason: Natalie Portman. The young lady who has played everyone from Anne Frank to Princess Amidala is in every scene of Black Swan, and it's the role of her young life.


Who knew that ballet could be frightening? The setting is a world-class ballet company where Nina (Portman) obsesses her way into the lead role of Swan Lake. But she must find her dark side in order to perfect the dual role of the White Swan/Dark Swan Queen. Along the way she faces a Svengali director, a manipulative mother, an aging diva and an unscrupulous rival. They may be familiar themes, but in the hands of director Darren Aronofsky you know you're about to tip-toe through the shadows. Portman is supported by Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and the film has a nice cameo by Winona Ryder.

There plenty of scary movies filling movie screens—almost too many. Almost all of them are forumulaic and manipulative. But when a terrifying tale is in the hands of an expert director like Aronofsky, you know you're in for a cinematic treat. By my count, there were a couple dozen gasps, and about six genuine screams in the theater. And when the theater is filled with a few thousand people—as was the giant Elgin at the Toronto International Film Festival—it's surreal. Now that I've emerged into the daylight, I'm still a little nervous. I hope I don't run into any ballet dancers anytime soon.

I may need to book a return visit to Toronto. I think I need to find a good amount of my skin after having jumped through it while watching Black Swan.