If Black Swan was directed by David Fincher, it would be called 'Ballet Club,' and it would be a thematic sequel to Fight Club. However, it wasn't directed by Fincher, but instead by Darren Aronofsky, which explains why it is probably the most well-directed movie of the year. I can't say that it is the best film of the year, which I believe is The Social Network because it is both good and culturally relevant, but Aronofsky's skill is at its peak in Black Swan, and it sure is something to marvel. Aronofsky has exquisitely directed the most perfectly structured and beautifully narrated film I have seen this year, and while I still give major props to Fincher, as well as David O Russell ('The Fighter') and Christopher Nolan ('Inception') for their work this year, Aronofsky has proven that he is the "best director" of 2010.
Natalie Portman steals the screen for the majority of the film, brilliantly portraying the fragile ballerina Nina Sayers (Oscar buzz shouldn't be a surprise). After winning the role of the Swan Queen in the upcoming show of the popular Swan Lake dance, Nina struggles to move out of the shadow of her nutty, sheltering mother, while rejecting the sexual advances and dark nature of her extremely professional instructor, all the while preparing for a performance she wants to make perfect. Seeing Tron Legacy and The Fighter before this (I saw all three in one day) helped keep me up with this whole perfection fiasco, which is the entire theme of Black Swan.
The most brilliant thing about Black Swan is that it actually adapts the story of 'Swan Lake' into Nina's story that we see in the film. Since I'm a guy, I know very little about 'Swan Lake,' but Aronofsky obviously wasn't targeting only females with this film, so he throws in a summary about halfway in. It is then that you should be able to pick up that everything Nina is going through is a literal translation of the 'Swan Lake' story. This is even easier to notice with the orchestra music that plays throughout the movie during scenes that would not normally have music playing in the background. Most guys won't find this information fascinating at all, but hey, we get to see two hot chicks making out. Or do we?
Aronofsky does a lot more with this film than you'll probably be able to notice after seeing it once. This includes having Natalie Portman always wearing white while Mila Kunis always wears black, to represent Portman as the Swan and Kunis as the dark side, although this symbolism is all in Nina's head. Her reluctance to push everyone else out of her life shows as we continually see her trying to keep her mother out of her room, as well as her attempts to impress her instructor while failing to understand what he wants out of her. Her struggle to impress two perfectionists drives her to the point of insanity, and the balance of the two characters on Nina's shoulders represents the struggle of the "swan" with it's dark side, which we see leads to a surprisingly extravagant conclusion.
I would say that Aronofsky was very Fincher-esque with the psychological mindf**k, Kubrickian with the perfectionist structure of the film (especially with the bombastically loud orchestral soundtrack), or even Tarantinoish with the way he incorporated symbolism every which way (as Inglourious Basterds did), but if you have seen any of this director's past films, you will understand that this is all Aronofsky. While it is indeed perfect, and very symbolic, it is also very dark and never afraid to push the limits, just as his other films are. Black Swan as a whole represents the beauty of Aronofsky's dark natured filmography, although some will not like it since the limits the film pursues to push are not the type fans of Disney's Ice Princess would've expected. It actually thrilled me to see many of the young girls in the theater covering their eyes throughout the film, just so I could assure myself that I wasn't watching some Dear John/Last Song crap.