Black Swan

In the melodramatic world of classical ballet, what is real and what is a dream?

Black Swan might be about ballet, but that doesn’t make it a chick-flick. Mixing together elements from All About Eve, Dostoevsky’s The Double, early Polanski psycho-drama, Cronenbergian body horror and even a splash of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Darren Aronofsky’s latest finds Natalie Portman giving an award-winning turn as a ballerina who must battle with rivals and her own repressive nature when she wins the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. But the further she goes in trying to get in touch with her dark side for the role of the Black Swan, the more her life spirals out of control.

Picture: Like The Wrestler beforehand, Darren Aronofsky shot Black Swan on 16mm (albeit with some digital photography thrown into the mix) in order to allow the camera operators to get in amongst the dancers and to give the film a vérité feel. As such, in aesthetic terms, it’s little surprise to discover that the Black Swan Blu-ray looks very similar to that of the previous film – the AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode delivers an extremely gritty, dark and textured image, albeit one that also provides some excellent colour reproduction and striking detailing. It’s not exactly attractive, but it is does a bloody good job of replicating the intended look of the film.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: As much as I enjoyed Black Swan, I have to admit to being slightly disappointed by this Blu-ray soundtrack. Sure, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix handles dialogue with ease and does a spectacular job with the orchestral score accompanying the ballet, delivering plenty of power and range across each note. But far to often it feels biased to the front of the soundstage, relegating the rears to little more than the odd atmospheric effect (dancers’ feet running past you) and opening out the music. What it does, it does very well – but given the film’s subject matter and overwrought style, you feel like it could try to do so much more.
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: The extra features get off to a great start with the three-part behind-the-scenes documentary Black Swan Metamorphosis. Running for a little under 50 minutes, it provides a fascinating look at various elements of the production (from set dressing to visual effects) and features some interesting insights from a number of the cast and crew, as well as some brief glimpses of material that didn’t make it into the finished edit (which makes the lack of deleted scenes on the disc all the more annoying).

While fairly numerous, the remaining extras (all sub-six minute featurettes and interviews) fail to live up to the same standard, with even the two chats with Aronofsky and Portman being far too short. The set also includes the trailer, a bonus DVD and Digital Copy of the film (the latter gets a ‘How To’ video guide on the Blu-ray), and a BD-Live link.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: A wonderfully overwrought psycho-horror – just don’t expect its AV prowess to have you dancing with joy.

20th Century Fox, Region A/B BD, £25 approx, On sale now