Review Summary: Dark and penetrating, Black Swan’s official soundtrack conjures up every disturbing moment from the movie as well as some delicate brushstrokes of classical ballet.
For those who have seen Black Swan
, one of the most buzzed-about psychological thrillers of 2010, the movie needs no introduction. The twisted but focused plot drove all of us, especially those of us viewing the movie for a highly anticipated cunnilingus scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, off a figurative cliff. All the trailers and previews the media had to offer didn’t prepare us for the sheer brilliance of director Darren Aranofsky’s masterpiece, one that was made even grander by Portman’s dedicated preparation (she trained extensively in ballet dancing and lost a considerable amount of weight) and utterly believable portrayal of someone suffering from schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. The storyline is plenty elaborate, complex enough to deceive you, and packed with enough palpable suspense to leave you feeling a mixed bag of emotions ranging from alienation to empathy. But throughout the whole thing, there is a nagging feeling that something else is behind the steering wheel…taking each turn in the plot with frightening instability and recklessness. That subtle push comes from Clint Mansell’s haunting soundtrack – one that introduces the movie with magisterial elegance and sees it all the way through to its terrifying end.
’s soundtrack makes an admirable bid for perfection, with well-defined classical influences and the remarkable ability to control the tempo of the film. However, just as Nina (Natalie Portman) discovers in Black Swan
, perfection is not just about control: it’s also about letting go. Or as the masterful dance instructor Thomas Leroy commands in the movie, “surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience.” Clint Mansell puts that advice into direct practice here, periodically departing from the ebb and flow of the orchestra to erect a whirlwind of musical concepts that absolutely blow away the listener, simultaneously allowing the soundtrack to transcend its original purpose as an accompanying feature of the movie. Mansell takes on the mindset of Black Swan
, adopting its clearly unstable mindset and turning it into music that is somehow both beautiful and petrifying. The opener ‘Nina’s Dream’ offers a brief glimpse into what one can expect from this nearly hour-long thrill ride, although it hardly does justice to the vastness of the soundtrack and its diverse methods that collaborate to slowly probe your mind until you too feel the insanity coming on. ‘A New Swan Queen’ is one of the main highlights of this ambitious collection, with an ominous drum beat backed by chill-inducing piano notes – all of which quickly transforms into a completely uplifting moment. The song’s ability to shift effortlessly between eeriness and inspiration is also one of the soundtrack’s most endearing traits, as it is demonstrated both here and in other powerful tracks such as ‘Night of Terror.’ The broad emotional/psychological spectrum of the music gives the film just the loose, “about-to-break” sensation that it needs to excel, and it definitely provides a key foundation for Black Swan
’s ultimate objective.
Keen listeners will notice a marked increase in the music’s intensity during the latter half of the soundtrack. Beginning with ‘Night of Terror’ and continuing on through ‘Stumbled Beginnings’, ‘It’s My Time’, ‘A Swan is Born’, and ‘Perfection’, Black Swan
reaches its triumphant but tragic resolution - and the soundtrack fully recognizes the importance of each scene in its correct sequence. Like a nightmare gone horribly wrong, ‘Night of Terror’ feels never ending, with a mystical beginning, a gradual increase in urgency, several abrupt twists (a few of which that will make your heart leap into your throat), and an overall air of confusion and disarray. ‘Stumbled Beginnings’ takes the horror of the preceding track and lightens the mood, with a fairy-like prance in each step of its progression. ‘A Swan is Born’ prepares the listener for take-off, providing the onset of the absurdly climactic ‘Perfection’ – which is easily the most important song here (as well as the most important scene in the film). ‘Perfection’ is the magnum opus of the entire soundtrack, with dramatic orchestration so perfect
that it literally feels like a modern day reincarnation of one of Beethoven’s greatest compositions. This song ties everything together in a way that is magnificent, dominant, and cathartic – and it is, quite simply, the best possible way to draw the curtain on Black Swan
. ‘A Swan Song (For Nina)’ ensues, but it passes like a slight breeze or an exhale following the sheer magnitude of ‘Perfection’…and the entire soundtrack, for that matter.
is a mind f***…There is no getting around it. The film’s official soundtrack embodies everything that makes it exciting, disturbing, and so darkly captivating. It can be delicate and dainty like a ballerina, or as dense and startling as a hallucination of the fiery depths of hell. There are few soundtracks in existence that play such a large role in a movie’s success, and this is one of them. The movie would be severely lacking its dramatic and psychological appeal without it…and as for the soundtrack itself, it is brilliant enough to stand on its own and engage listeners for almost a full hour. There may be an added dimension of pleasure taken by those who have seen the movie and
heard the soundtrack, but this is a work of art in its own right. Allow yourself to be enchanted, transported, and devastated.