Clint Mansell
Black Swan


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
April 14th, 2011 | 49 replies | 8,645 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

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.

Black Swan’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.

Black Swan 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.



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user ratings (33)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
April 14th 2011



6923 Comments


as usual good review sowing, posnezz

wabbit
April 14th 2011



6977 Comments


God this movie was fucking brilliant.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
April 14th 2011



49766 Comments


You said penetrating.
Great movie, great soundtrack.

Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Shaking off the rust.

Digging: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

psykonaut
April 14th 2011



3913 Comments


i need this. movie was awesome

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Only thing keeping this from a 5 is that the middle portion drags for like a few minutes. But other than that it is pure gold.

thebhoy
Emeritus
April 14th 2011



4459 Comments


mehhh, the soundtrack would've been average if it wasn't for the fact that half of it was Swan Lake (I mean the in film music, not just this)

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bought this 2 weeks ago and have watched it like 6 times already. 7 if you include the theater

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



7136 Comments


Welcome back SS. This was a great read - even if I had to jump the entire first paragraph for fear of what look like a decent chance of a couple of spoilers.

Who would you recommend this soundtrack to? Casual listeners who enjoyed the film, or strictly enthusiasts?

ConsiderPhlebas
April 14th 2011



6157 Comments


Awesome film/soundtrack/review. Didn't know about the Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis scene until I watched it at the cinema. There was an old chap there with his teenage daughters, squirming for the entire thing.

theacademy
April 14th 2011



28232 Comments


u added a duplicate i think

listed under Clint Mansell

Rev
April 14th 2011



9375 Comments


Yeah he did


Great review though man. I got this for my ex-girlfriend for her birthday

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

eh whatever I'm too lazy to try and fix it

figured it would have been under soundtracks, and i'm not the one who added the duplicate for what its worth. i just submitted my review

Emim
April 14th 2011



26476 Comments


stopped reading after "dark and penetrating"

theacademy
April 14th 2011



28232 Comments


sorry didn't mean to accuse

i think mansell should have his own page

when i put his soundtrack's in my iTunes, i use his name as "Album Artist" as opposed to the generic "Various Artists"

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

no offense taken or anything was just stressing my laziness

maybe tomorrow ill ask the mods to merge it

crazyblinddude
April 14th 2011



3389 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review Sowing! I loved this as much as I loved the film. Of course I'm a sucker for anything
Clint Mansell, but this mixed really well with the film.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
April 14th 2011



15332 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree, I tried to imagine the film without the music and I just don't think it would have been the same

crazyblinddude
April 15th 2011



3389 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I definitely know what you mean.

You should check out the OST for The Book of Eli if you like Mansell's work. It's actually Atticus Ross, but I always listen to those guys together, because they go together so nicely (well and Hans Zimmer).

crazyblinddude
April 15th 2011



3389 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Regardless.... the soundtrack is still amazing.



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