Black Swan (2010)

The idea of using a well-known story, to weave on top of it a parallel, contemporary one, is not new in cinema. An excellent film doing this is Red Shoes based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

In Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky does almost the same: a ballet dancer is granted the role of the princess of swans, required to play both the White and the Black swan in Swan Lake ballet. The similarities between her life and the ballet’ story are depicted in a frustrating, breath-taking manner where every scene prepares things for the tragic ending.

As every other film of Darren Aronofsky, this is a master piece. Acting is superb, direction is excellent. However, it is more obscure than the previous ones. In the rest of the post, a detail analysis of the film will follow, so, I would suggest to skip it if you intend to see the film.

The film opens with a dream of Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), the ballet dancer which desperately pursues the role of her life: to dance as the princes of swans.

The above opening dream bears the entire meaning of the whole film along with the short story provided by the artistic director of the ballet, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel): “Virgin girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan, she desires freedom but only love can break the spell. Her wish is granted in the form of a prince … But the lustful twin, the Black Swan tricks and seduces him … The White Swan jumps off a cliff and in death finds freedom.”

Nina Sayers, is still a child in the body of a virgin woman. She is trying to fulfil the dream of a mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), that once was a ballet dancer herself. A mother that never managed to have the career she was dreaming because she was not good enough, but had a daughter as an excuse for her failure (as she sees it). A mother which tries everything in her power to train her daughter to succeed but at the same time subconsciously makes everything possible to make her fail, in order to have her close her for ever.

The lack of personal life, the suffocating control of her mother, the pressure of the her need for perfection, the time which passing by, acts against her (as for every ballet dancer), force her inner self, to reflect its injuries to her own body in a variety of ways. That inner self, is expressing its anger for the mutilation it is experiencing for the lack of a normal life, for a lack of erotic life. The irony is that the artistic director sees through her and instructs her to .l.i.v.e. , to make love in order to be able to play the Black Swan, in order to be able to seduce: how is it possible for an actor to generate a feeling he/she has never experienced? And in order to show her the way, he seduces her, makes her dream of him and at a certain point, he also makes her feel betrayed as she sees him make love with her fellow dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis).

The turning point is at the opening night when the time comes to play the Black Swan. That moment, she must convey an experience she has never lived before in her life, to the audience. And in order to do that, her inner self takes control, becomes the Black Swan and claims what is rightfully hers: the role she was struggling for her entire life, by taking the life of her competitor that threatens to take that role away.

That gives her the strength and exhilaration to be as seductive and magnificent as the role demands, to provide an outstanding performance, to claim her real own prince (Thomas Leroy) by passionately kissing him  in public. But returning to her dressing room, to prepare for the final act, she finds out that the killing was an illusion. It her desperate attempt to be for the first time in her life a Black Swan, she had turned against her White part that was in the way …

Darren Aronofsky not only manages to draw in parallel the ballet story with the story of the movie, but also succeeds to use both, in order to vividly display  the conflict between the different sides each and every one of us carries within. Sides which may be far apart and for which domination of one means the death of the other.

My rating: 09/10