Possibly for the first time in his career as a director, most of the post-release chatter centered around Natalie Portman’s performance and the things she had to do to prepare for the role, and not around Aronofsky as a writer or director. There is good reason, as Portman’s performance is thoroughly convincing and gleefully unhinged.
I love so much about this film. I feel like it shows Aronofsky at his artistic peak (well, The Wrestler is pretty fantastic, too). The documentary-style hand-held camera work really adds to the frenetic atmosphere, especially as Nina (Portman) falls deeper and deeper into psychosis. I’m particularly fond of the many scenes where the camera follows Nina from behind as she navigates the city streets and the labyrinthian hallways of Lincoln Center, all the while catching fleeting glimpses of herself in other people’s faces and distorted reflections.
While there are many scenes that might be considered more traditional Horror (Nina’s compulsive skin picking; Beth stabbing herself in the face with a nail file), it’s the psychological hold it takes on you that has the strongest effect. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique do a great job at dropping the viewer into Nina’s paranoid mind, making her a proxy of sorts, and you, the viewer, the intended target.