Black Swan was one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2010. Natalia Portman had a role in this film, for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress.
The film also caused a lot of controversy due to Portman ‘s body double . She argued that she did not deserve the Oscar because Portman was not the one who had danced most of the time in Black Swan. The director, Darren Aronofsky, complimented Portman’s work, saying that the body double only replaced her during the toughest scenes.
The film Black Swan shows our ballet on the big screen. It is a psychological thriller based on Swan Lake. Natalie Portman glows, because her role is much more than a simple dancer. She plays a complex character with mental disorders that become increasingly apparent as the ballet’s opening day approaches.
Portman’s acting is amazing, she is completely convincing in her role. She captivates us from the very first moment of the film. Let’s not forget that the actress is a graduate of Harvard University and has a degree in psychology. The knowledge she gained probably helped her prepare for the role.
The plot of Black Swan revolves around Nina, a young dancer who lives with her mother and dances for a ballet company. The company wants to open the season with a renewed version of Swan Lake. Nina wants to get the lead role.
She is a very disciplined, methodical and demanding dancer, but the character requires a wilder and freer side. The film goes hand in hand with the ballet, and in a masterly way it immerses us in the personality of the main character and her trials.
Music, images, and dance stand out from the start. They grab the viewer’s attention, immersing us in a unique atmosphere charged with suspense, which builds up to the brilliant conclusion of the film.
The discovery of Nina
We discover Nina’s personality as the plot unfolds. Her mother was also a dancer, but she did not achieve the success that her daughter has. Her mother left everything behind to take care of her daughter. We don’t hear about Nina’s father. All we know is that Nina’s mother raised her alone and is very protective of her.
Nina has no real friends. She just keeps in touch with her ballet colleagues. All that matters in her life is dancing. Her bedroom is very childish, as it is painted in pale tones and filled with countless stuffed animals.
You could easily mistake the room for a little girl’s room, someone who has not yet grown up. This room is a reflection of Nina’s world. She is a very dependent young woman. Her mother has her under control and she hasn’t grown up yet.
Her mother was the one who instilled her passion for ballet. She may also have projected her frustrations on Nina. In this way Nina also shows her mother that she has never achieved anything or has come very far. This eventually leads to a conflict between the two.
Nina never disobeyed her mother. She has always lived an extremely controlled life and has never had a chance to decide anything for herself. Therefore, Nina has developed a complex personality. She takes out her frustrations and impotence on herself. She injures herself and makes herself vomit.
Her mother knows that Nina has these problems. She tries to control the scratches on Nina’s back by clipping her nails so she can’t scratch herself, and she keeps an eye on the amount of time Nina spends in the bathroom.
Nina did not have a happy childhood and she did not develop healthy. Her mother overprotected her and took her frustrations out on her daughter. All this has made Nina an emotionally unstable person.
This instability culminates when the company offers her a role that makes Nina’s personality wobble and come out. Nina is obsessed with perfection and will do anything to achieve it, even at the cost of her health.
Black Swan , a dangerous dance
Swan Lake tells the story of Odette, a princess who was turned into a white swan by a spell. To break the spell, she needs the love of a prince. This love eventually fails because a rival intervenes: the black swan.
Nina’s company decides to reinvent the story and the role of both swans must be played on the same person.
Nina seems to fit perfectly in the role of the white swan, but not that of the black swan. She lacks spontaneity and is too disciplined to be the black swan. As in Tchaikovsky’s world, Nina has a rival, Lily.
She is also one of the dancers of the company, an undisciplined and carefree young woman who fits perfectly into the role of the black swan. From this moment on, Nina’s personality becomes unstable and she becomes obsessed with her rival. This reveals her most unstable and dark side.
As we progress into the ballet and meet the main characters, Nina’s personality begins to distance. She is no longer able to recognize herself or distinguish between the real world and a dream world.
Mirrors play an important role in Black Swan. They present the distortions that Nina experiences. They show us how confused she is in the film’s most critical moments. In this film, mirrors are powerful symbols. Both swans live in Nina and are unable to achieve a balance, a harmony.
Nina lacks a father figure and her mother has complete power over her. It is clear that there are many holes in her fragile personality. The new rival and the search for that dark side that the role of the black swan requires will show Nina the first symptoms of psychosis.
Nina will have an internal battle with the two swans living in her life, as her relationships with her mother and her environment become increasingly difficult.
The other side of ballet
In addition to the demands of the role and her rivalry with Lily, Nina is confronted with a less friendly facet of ballet and the world. She has never had such an important role and is therefore oblivious to the darkness that surrounds her.
During her night out with Lily, we see that Nina knows nothing about nightlife and drugs. Nina has never been exposed to these situations and has always been under her mother’s protection. She is unable to decide for herself or know what is best for her.
On the other hand, within the company itself, we see that her relationships there are not quite healthy either. The dancers are replaced when they reach a certain age. There is always rivalry between the dancers when it comes to a new role.
In addition, the most powerful men, such as the director of the company, can abuse and pressure the dancers. That reminds us of the Me Too movement that is taking place in the film world today.
Nina’s character is also a bit similar to Norman Bates, the main character of the movie Psycho, mainly because of her relationship with her mother. The excessive protection and darkness of the entertainment world leads Nina to imbalance, instability and self-destruction.
Black Swan is a reflection of psychosis in the world of ballet. It is a dangerous quest for perfection, that perfection that we admire as spectators.
When we see a work of art we are in a state of admiration as an audience, but we are totally oblivious to the path the artists have traveled to get to where they are. The result is perfection, but the road was most likely full of thorns.