Entertainment & Arts

Natalie Portman thriller opens Venice Film Festival

Media captionVenice Film Festival has opened with the thriller Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman graced the red carpet for the premiere of her latest film Black Swan, which had the honour of opening the Venice Film Festival.

The US actress was joined by the film's director Darren Aronofsky, who won the Italian film festival's top prize in 2008 for The Wrestler.

This year's jury, which awards the Golden Lion trophy, is headed by Quentin Tarantino.

Some 79 movies are expected to premiere over the festival's 11-day run.

The Golden Lion will be fought over by 22 films from directors around the world, although no British films will be vying for the prize.

'No idea'

Speaking on the opening day, Inglourious Basterds director Tarantino said: "I love being on juries. I've yet to find it difficult, but I've always ended up being with, not like-minded, but passion-minded artists every time I've done it.

"I love the idea, what I love about being on the jury is, I love seeing a whole bunch of new movies from all over the world. I have no real idea about what to expect.

"I might have an idea about an actor in it, or the director in it or something, but I really don't know what to expect and it's all over the world there and so usually when you watch the movie, you don't know what you're going to see until it starts playing and it either grabs you or it doesn't."

Image caption Tarantino heads this year's Venice jury

Other films in the main competition include Sophia Coppola's Somewhere, Julian Schnabel's Miral, starring Freida Pinto and Willem Dafoe, and France's Francois Ozon's Potiche, which features Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve.

Psychological thriller Black Swan centres on the competitive world of ballet, with Portman's character fighting to take the crown of prima ballerina of a New York company.

Aronofsky has called the film a companion piece to The Wrestler, which saw its star Mickey Rourke nominated for a best actor Oscar.

"The more I looked into the world of ballet, I actually started to see all these similarities to the world of wrestling," he said.

"They both have these performers that use their bodies in sort of extremely, intense physical ways. Their entire performance is based on intense physicality."

'Always intriguing'

Speaking after the screening, Portman told the BBC: "I hadn't seen it before last night and I watched it along with the rest of the audience, it looked completely different to how I imagined, but I was blown away by it."

Talking about the perfectionism demanded of the role, she added: "Both me and the character were going through the same things, just trying to get our art right.

"Ballet is an incredible discipline - you have to have so much concentration, be willing to work hard, and be willing to experience great pain."

Reviews for Black Swan have, so far, been largely positive.

"Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future," wrote David Gittens in The Telegraph.

And Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent wrote: "The film looks bound to win its star, Natalie Portman, plaudits and award nominations for her searing performance as the ambitious but insecure Nina."

The Venice Film Festival runs until 11 September.

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