Black Swan, Reviews, and Reading Habits

Warning: Spoiler Alert

This is not a post about reviews per se, but about when we read them–that is before or after the event.  Today I had a very pure movie experience.  I saw Black Swan without having read anything about it beforehand, and for that I am grateful.  I knew the film starred Natalie Portman and somehow involved Swan Lake, but knew nothing more beyond that, and if I had, I don’t think the film would have had nearly the impact for me that it did.  Had I read so much as a single review that mentioned the idea of life mirroring art, paranoia, or the double, I would have lost out on much of the film’s potential for suspense.  The key moments of viewer uncertainty that arise from the film’s careful blurring of reality and the perception of the lead character Nina (Portman) would have been preempted.  Having said all this, I am still not certain how I ultimately feel about the film.  I think it is artful, visually interesting, well acted, fairly provocative on the whole, and yet I did not LOVE it.  I only liked it, and I think this is in part because the instances in which Nina looks at someone and instead sees the evil sorcerer or the black swan occur too soon, too often, or maybe even at all, at the expense of subtlety.

I am certain of this: Black Swan made me glad I work in theatre and not dance.  Yikes!

I’m someone who routinely overreads, overesearches, and this doesn’t just go for test preparation or writing legwork, but also for play or film selection. The only exception is when I’m seeing a show with the clear intention of reviewing it, in which case I will not read any other reviews until I’ve finished my own.  Otherwise, the scholar in me won’t rest, and I typically read different reviews of a production or film before I see it–and enjoy doing so.  Today, however, I was reminded of the opposite and sometimes equal joy of not reading reviews beforehand.

Also on the subject of reading, I’ve added a page at the top of Drama, Daily for my 2011 reading list-in-progress.  Read along, suggest a work, and let’s discuss!


2 Responses to “Black Swan, Reviews, and Reading Habits”
  1. Erika Robuck says:

    Even though someone spoiled it for me on Twitter, I still want to see it. Natalie Portman is one of my favorite actresses.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I felt the same way you did! My first thought after it was over was, “Wow! Glad I quit ballet when I was 5!” I have a hard time watching ballet in general because of what ballerinas put themselves through. Plus, I’m not a fan of Tchaikovsky. Go figure I wouldn’t enjoy a film filled with his music. 😛

    I agree that although it was a fantastic film – great acting, direction, script, psychological exploration, sexual exploration – I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t sure why until I read your post. I think you’re right, maybe there wasn’t enough of a build-up. We were thrown into the fire too soon. Hmm.

    Yeah, I think I’ll stick to theatre! 🙂

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