TORONTO, Canada – The premise of Black Swan is to be expected – that is, it’s to
be expected from a director like Darren Aronofsky, who made films like The
Wrestler, Pi and Requiem for a Dream.
All these movies deal with characters who are paranoid, emotionally disturbed,
hallucinogenic or suffering from depression or heartbreak.
Arnofsky looks at how these traits come about in a person, whether he or she is
addicted to drugs, or has a career that is physically and mentally demanding,
like say, wrestling.
In Black Swan, Arnofsky turns our attention to the ballet world and introduces
us to the character of Nina Sayers, the newly crowned “Swan Queen,” for an
unnamed ballet company’s newest production of Swan Lake.
Swan Lake is a world-heralded ballet production – a story about a girl who
morphs into a white swan and chases after a prince who she thinks loves her.
However, just as she makes a move, her evil twin, the Black Swan, comes in and
snatches her prince away.
The White Swan suffers from heartbreak and dies. It is this strange duality of
the Black Swan and the White Swan that frames this movie. It revolves around
such dichotomies such as innocence and darkness, sane and insane, and frigid and
seductive. Nina is ‘the White Swan,’ this fragile, innocent character who can so
easily be broken. Nina’s fragility costs her as she tries to become the Black
Swan, going from sweet and nice to mentally disturbed over the course of
To me, Black Swan is ultimately about arrested development and mental illness.
Nina Sayers – played to perfection by Natalie Portman – is a ballerina who still
lives with her mother as if she were a little girl.
Her room is pink, her mother constantly watches over her, and she lives a very
rigid lifestyle. In a way, it’s like she’s been guarded from the cruelties of
life for so long.
When she deals with something as complex and frustrating as this role she’s
given – she has to play both the White and Black Swan – it becomes that much
easier for her to suffer in a such a terrifying way.
I was scared when I watched the Black Swan. Being dubbed as a ‘psychological
thriller,’ it works on every level to show that sometimes one’s own version of
the world can become so potent that it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what
isn’t, especially when your hallucinations seem more real than actual reality.
Everything about this movie, from the cinematography to the choreography to the
acting, works to show us just how scary it can be to go from complete innocence
to utter darkness.
I hope Black Swan wins a lot of accolades come awards season, for it stands as
one of 2010’s strongest movies.