Black Swan

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This movie is about two different characters namely Black swan and the white swan. The Black swan symbolizes the evil tamed side of humans whereas the white swan symbolizes the untamed and the fragile side of humans. In the movie she repeats these words “I felt it, Perfect, It was perfect” At its centre is young ballerina Nina Sayers, played by Natalie Portman. She is beautiful, vulnerable, sexually naive and susceptible to mental illness. To play the role of a lifetime, Nina must delve deep into her own dark side.

As her hallucinations and anxiety attacks escalate in tandem with her progress in rehearsal, artistic breakthrough fuses with nervous breakdown. This is a movie about fear of penetration, fear of your body, fear of being supplanted in the affections of a powerful man, love of perfection, love of dance, and perhaps most importantly of all, passionate and overwhelming hatred of your mother. Portman has decisively moved out of the ugly duckling phase of her career with this tremendous performance as Nina, a hardworking corps member of a New York City ballet company who has low-level dieting and self-harm issues more or less under control.

She lives with her difficult mother – an impressive and satisfyingly nasty performance from Barbara Hershey – who abandoned her own stagnant ballet career on being impregnated by some heartless, mercurial mogul or other, and channelled her rage and disappointment into coaching the resulting daughter, whom she has attempted to infantilise by filling her pink bedroom with gonks and installing a deplorable musical box that tinkles the theme from Swan Lake. We join the story as the company is about to dispense with its bitter has-been star (and wrecked gamine) Beth Macintyre: the casting of Winona Ryder is sadistically judged.

The company’s exacting director Thomas Leroy, played by Vincent Cassel, is looking for someone new to play the lead in Swan Lake. His hooded eye settles on tremulous Nina. But he warns her that the biggest challenge will be playing the character’s evil twin, the “Black Swan”. She has to find the darker, more sensual side of herself. Thomas invites Nina back to his apartment for intimate drinks. To develop the role, he instructs her to go home and touch herself. Touching Thomas also appears to be on the agenda. This is not based on anything by Noel Streatfeild.

In addition, Thomas encourages Nina to admire the company’s new ballerina: funky free spirit and Olympic-standard minx Lily (Mila Kunis), who helps unlock Nina’s life-force with seductive overtures of friendship, and more. But does Lily simply want to steal Nina’s role? As Nina’s anxiety intensifies, she is worried about a weird feathery skin-rash and becomes convinced that her reflection in the mirror continues to stare at her after she has turned away. As a study of female breakdown, Black Swan is the best thing since Polanski’s Repulsion.

But, in fact, with its creepy Manhattan interiors, its looming, closeup camera movements, and its encircling conspiracy of evil, it looks more like Rosemary’s Baby, particularly in cinematographer Matthew Libatique’s brilliant continuous shot in which Nina makes out with a random guy in a club, then wakes up to what she’s doing and, freaked out, blunders through murky winding corridors and out into the night air – there seems no difference between inside and outside. Everywhere is claustrophobic.

Of course, any ballet movie has to be compared with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes, and the figure of Thomas is obviously inspired by Anton Walbrook’s legendary martinet – although Thomas is rather less high minded – and Nina’s POV pirouette-whirl in rehearsal is also taken from Powell and Pressburger. But again, their influence might be more from the convent drama Black Narcissus, and the final confrontation of Kathleen Byron and Deborah Kerr. There are also hints of John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London.

This happens to be the second film recently that has used the Swan Lake theme – Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men featured it counterintuitively, at the crisis of an ascetic and spiritual tale of French monks. Its use in Black Swan is self-explanatory – it is more obviously grandiloquent and excessive and appropriate to the fireworks going off in Nina’s head. (In both cases, the Swan Lake theme is technically diegetic, in that the music is physically present in the story, being played respectively on the monks’ old tape machine and in the orchestra pit. But my goodness, Aronofsky likes to play that Swan Lake theme loud.

He’s probably right to do so. Tchaikovsky’s rich, gloriously direct music needs to be punched over, and punched over it is. Motorhead could not have played the Swan Lake theme any louder than this. I left the cinema with blood trickling from my ears. Black Swan is ionospherically over the top, and some of its effects are overdone, but it is richly, sensually enjoyable and there is such fascination in seeing Portman surrender to the madness and watch her face transmute into a horror-mask like a nightmare version of Maria Callas.

It is exciting, quite mad and often really scary. How It relates to Religion. According to my point of view this Movie relates to Buddhism. It can be explained through the process of NIBBANA which means the process of death and rebirth continues up to a certain point where it is stopped after a certain point in life, in which Buddhists believe as their ultimate goal. In simple words, this point is when a certain individual gains a thorough understanding of reality which may take generations to achieve (may be even 1000’s of years).

In other words being perfect. What does the movie communicate? In the beginning she says “I felt it” which symbolizes the white swan (tamed and fragile) Then at the middle she says “Perfect“. Which means she was white and the black swan which means she is leading a balance life with qualities that match the daily life. At the last stages she says “it was perfect” as she kills the white swan to be black swan where she realises the truth behind life. She feels that it was perfect at the time of being both the black swan and the white swan.

The problem was that she had characteristics of both (white and black) and she had to choose one. Due to the influence of others, her character was radically changed into a completely black swan although she realised the truth later. It was too late. Overall this gives a strong message to the audiences. Simply don’t live in a fragile fairy tale life or live in a harsh life with evil qualities. Just lead a normal life in-between the two (black swan and the white swan). What it communicates Nina is depicted as naive, fearful and frigid.

She is pressured by her controlling mother (Barbara Hershey) who gave up dancing to have her. Rick Instrell’s analysis of Black Swan mentions how we can use Jungian archetypes, or Storytelling archetypes to describe the roles of the other characters in the film. According to Instrell, the archetypes we can find in the film are: a. ) The Bad Mother (known to hinder development) b. ) The Shadow (often seen in the villain/s, shows dark, undeveloped side of personality) c. ) The Wise Old Man (a mentor) d. The Shapeshifter (symbolic of the self, always changing) *Descriptions Nina is depicted as naive, fearful and frigid. She is pressured by her controlling mother (Barbara Hershey) who gave up dancing to have her. Rick Instrell’s analysis of Black Swan mentions how we can use Jungian archetypes, or Storytelling archetypes to describe the roles of the other characters in the film.

According to Instrell, the archetypes we can find in the film are: a. ) The Bad Mother (known to hinder development) b. The Shadow (often seen in the villain/s, shows dark, undeveloped side of personality) c. ) The Wise Old Man (a mentor) d. ) The Shapeshifter (symbolic of the self, always changing) *Descriptions At the end her face is finally revealed. And at the airport take on the point of view of what seems like a predator, ready to attack Nina. Based on the story of Swan Lake, this is probably the sorcerer who decides to curse her and turn her (the princess) into a swan. This is probably one of the very few scenes in the film where a POV other than that of Nina’s is shown.

Nina’s back is turned from us, stressing that this cannot be her POV because she can’t see what’s coming behind her. This is the first of many instances that illustrates Nina’s feeling of “being followed”. To emphasize this, Aronofsky uses a Follow Shot- a technique he uses a lot in this movie. The camera, also appearing to demonstrate a “handheld” effect or Handheld shot, follows the dark figure while it walks towards Nina. In the first few minutes of the film, there are already many shots where the camera seems to “pursue” or follow Nina.

The same style can be seen in around 0:45-1:06 (where the camera follows the movements of Nina’s feet), which was mentioned earlier. All of these shots involve the camera following the movement of different things- like the feet, the dark figure, etc. However, the effect is different when Nina is being followed from behind. The same technique is also used in all of Nina’s dancing scenes. (2) In one of Natalie Portman’s interviews, she describes how she has to “dance with the camera”.

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