Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SCRIPT REVIEW: Black Swan...


One of the films I've been looking forward to since it's first announcement has been Darren Aronofsky's follow up to last years masterpiece, The Wrestler, entitled Black Swan. Not much has been talked about this film, yet what we do know, outside of the plot, is that the film will star Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman, and will start shooting in the fall of this year, allegedly November. However, I'm here to shine a bit of light on this project.

I was able to attain a copy of this hot script, through means that I will keep as my little secret, and I must say, it's one of the best pieces I've cinematic writing that I've had a chance to read in a very long time. Here's the specifics:

TITLE: BLACK SWAN

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Mark Heyman
Premise: A ballerina competes against a rival dancer who may or may not be another version of herself.
Cast: Announced; Mila Kunis will portray the character of Lily, the rival ballerina to Nina, played by Natalie Portman.
Length: 129 pages

This screenplay will be Aronofsky's first foray into true Psychological and possibly paranormal thriller, at least his first since Pi. Swan follows Nina, a ballerina in one of New York's premiere ballet troupes. In a group of caddy, juvenile, and backstabbing wolves, she seems to be the most down to earth, sweet, and kind of the company. In the breakneck world of ballet, where everybody is looking to take down the person in front of them, Nina seems to have a heart, which is both a gift and a curse in this world. Even Nina's friend, alleged friend, Beth, is getting gunned for due to her age. This ultimately takes a toll not only on Beth herself, but her relationship with our heroine.

After returning from a break, the companies next ballet will be the aptly fitting, Swan Lake. The lead, Odette, or the Swan Queen, has been Beth's to lose. However, with her age rising, the troupe leader, the striking Yevna, is looking to replace her. However, this is not an easy role to play. The woman who takes up the role must be able to play both light and dark, or the duel roles of the White Swan and the Black Swan. Our protagonist is a master of the White Swan, and has won the role, but now it's her turn to delve deep into her dark side to make the Black Swan work.

Seeing something in Nina after a botched kiss, Yevna decides to take a gamble on Nina. Seeing the rage that comes out of her during a private meeting makes Yevna decide to take this easily failed risk. His motives may be unclear, and he clearly has doubts as to if she can make it work or not, but what it leads to is all to clear and poignant. To make this work, Nina continually searches for the darkness within her, and as each moment passes, she falls deeper and deeper into the void. She begins seeing another woman walking around town who bears a striking, actually, identical, resemblance to our lead. One day after a rehearsal, after noticing her during a performance, Nina meets this person, whose name is Lily (Kunis).

She does look a lot like Nina, but isn't the exact carbon copy we have been lead to believe. She is the polar opposite of Nina in every possible way. Is she the same girl? Is she someone else? Is there still a replica out there?

This script is a masterwork of truly intense terror. I tweeted/facebook status'd this afternoon during my reading of this script that it is something similar to placing your hand on an electric stove burner, and slowly increasing the temperature until you get to the point where the burn is just to intense and violent. It leaves you with a scar, something to remember the action by. Well this screenplay has left me with mental images that I will remember this screenplay by. NOT just the running image of the now infamous Kunis/Portman sex scene (more on that in a minute).

Heyman is almost Stephen King-esque in his writing here. As is the case with most Aronofsky films, the screenplay, and film itself, lives with it's characters. If they are going to the grocery store, that will be in the script. Heyman makes the world of ballet, a sweet and poetic art, into a violent and deeply intense thriller. There is a moment near the start of this script that is a perfect example, where Nina is practicing her turns after failing the finale during a rehearsal, and the description of what happens during this rather poetic act, is so stark and violent in its description, and reality for that matter, that it makes it all the more dark.

This film is steeped in darkness. There is little light in this film, and even when things are seeming to be looking up, like say a night out at the bar, turns dark as night. Sure, all of this exposition seems to be a bit pretentious and lags down the reading of it a wee bit, but it also makes the sudden rushes of violence, particularly our climax, all the more potent and effecting. Also, if you look back in his career, these are the type of moments that Aronofsky thrives on, ESPECIALLY coming off of a film based perfectly in this style, in The Wrestler. There are single scenes, like Nina sitting in a lockeroom, that seem to be written specifically for the post Wrestler Aronofsky, which is interesting seeing as though this film was set to go into production in 2007.

As a read, Black Swan is a bit slow, but very engaging. It's like reading a great horror novel, just in screenplay form. The descriptions are vibrant and in a world so steeped in reality, the ending is brilliant. It turns this seemingly psychological thriller into what has been aptly compared to a film similar to that of the amazing horror film, The Others, which makes the read really enjoyable. Slow, but it's like a slow burn. A slow burn that leaves you with a scar that lasts for days. I just finished reading it, about 2 hours ago, and I don't think I will easily forget what I just spent the day reading. All of the characters seem to be well painted and thought out, that yes, the screenplay is very slow and awkwardly paced, but if you can get through it, you definitely won't be sad.

*On a side note, if any of you DO get to read the screenplay, tell me just how HARD this film is going to be insanely hard to market. THIS film is not at all easily marketable.

BLACK SWAN - 9/10

Go see something good!

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