The ballet is back in fashion and bloodier than ever. Director Darren Aronofsky takes us inside the fiercely competitive world of the ballet and shows us why it’s not always sweetness and light…

It’s almost impossible not to get caught up with all the talk surrounding Aronofsky’s latest cinematic thriller Black Swan. Luckily, the film does not fall foul of the hype. Critically acclaimed across the globe and tipped for big wins at this years Oscars, Aronofsky sheds light on the world of ballet in a whole new way. It’s dark, evocative, funny and disturbing at times but you will keep your eyes glued to the screen for the entire movie.

Conceived as a companion piece to Aronofsky’s previous effort, The Wrestler, Black Swan continues the exploration of the compassion and at times, obsession that can consume those determined to succeed.    The film centres on ballerina Nina (played by a superbly cast Natalie Portman) as she is cast in the leading role of Swan Lake. She aims to prove to the company’s charismatic, yet sleazy director Thomas LeRoy, (Vincent Cassel in his best role to date) that she can play the dual roles of the White and Black Swan.   Faced with an over baring mother and rival dancers, Nina slowly starts to crumble as she attempts to let go of her own fragile nature and transform into the darkly sensual Black Swan. Her own desire to be absolutely ‘perfect’ in the role is heightened when she meets another candidate for the lead in the form of new girl, Lily (played by a very under-rated Mila Kunis). It’s not long before the paranoia sets in and things take a very dark and twisted turn. All is never really what it seems.   And it’s not just Aronofsky who gives some of his best work to date here. Portman is truly outstanding as Nina. She plays fragile and manic with equal skill and there is nowhere for her to hide with this role. We frequently get up close shots of Portman so that we see and at times feel, all her emotions coming through.    Both she and Kunis trained for a full year prior to filming. Portman studied ballet from 3-13 as a child and remarkably got en Pointe at the age of 27. The two actresses also lost at least 20 pounds each so as to resemble the figures of ballerinas.   Portman gives one of her, if not the, performances of her career. But she has fantastic support from Cassel, Kunis, Winona Ryder (as the gloriously unstable Beth) and a terrific Barbara Hershey as Nina’s domineering mother.   The film has come under heavy criticism of its supposed inaccuracies in terms of the ballet scenes, but this is not the point of the film. This is not an in-depth look at ballet, but rather an exploration of one girl’s extreme attempts to achieve perfection.   Beautifully scored and shot with an award winning cast and director, Black Swan is more than worth all the hype and acclaim and deserves more than a few Oscar nods.   Black Swan is in cinemas now.