Sunday, 16 October 2011

Movie Review of Awesome: Black Swan (2010)

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (2010) is a mind maze that causes, at many instances, an elevation in one's heart rate.
The story revolves around a ballet dancer of utter stereotypical characteristics (frail, undernourished, strangely pure and has a torso that strangely resembles that of an eleven year old boy) by the name of Nina Sayers.

Figure 1: Black Swan (2010) Movie Poster

Living with her mother in an apartment in the city, Nina is a dancer at the prestigious New York Ballet Company who is aspiring to be the 'Swan Queen' in the Swan Lake ballet. This character requires her to be the White Swan as well as it's evil twin- The Black Swan. The director Thomas Leroy is under the impression that Nina is far to 'frigid' and would only suit the role of the White Swan. He keeps convincing her to 'let herself go' and  lose herself in her dance. The fact that she pursues perfection with such a passion is, according to him, the reason for her undoing.

Figure 2: Nina as the Swan Princess
 Throughout the movie, there are confusing bits where the viewer is meant to piece together the story. The cinematography is also rather claustrophobic in a way that the frame is never very wide angled. Even reviewer Peter Bradshaw thought so when he stated, " here seems no difference between inside and outside. Everywhere is claustrophobic." There is always a 'blinder vision' aspect to the shot. This leaves the viewer feeling a bit suffocated during the course of the film.
The film does hint at Nina having a mild history of child abuse. It is clear that her mother did indeed push her to take up ballet and even as an adult, she has a significant hold on her emotions. As the film progresses, Nina begins to hallucinate situations where she inflicts harm upon herself. There are many scenes where she peels the skin off of her fingers and there are perpetual scratch marks upon her back.
It is not surprise that she has a Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and has a personality that is highly sadistic and another that is submissive. According to Physician Muhammud Waseem, "The deleterious effects of childhood abusive experiences on growth and development have been well documented and are associated with various later mental health problems. Diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder is not usually made until adulthood, long after the extreme maltreatment thought to engender the condition has occurred." This does make one wonder if Nina was subject to severe punishments or heavy emotional burdens as a child which has caused her to have a part of her mind that wishes her to follow her own desires but another that control her because that is what she has been raised to believe. The audience does tend to become confused with the difference between Nina's perception of events and the actual events that take place. As reviewer Dave Calhoun rightly states, "It’s rarely clear what’s real or not in Black Swan"

Nina's other personality shows herself in the form of a girl named Lily, who is a colleague of Nina's. Nina begins to get paranoid that Lily wishes to steal the role of The Swan Queen from her. (That would be her controlling personality trying to convince her submissive half that it is alright to hate Lily and eliminate her from the competition) The divide in the two personalities is so severe that the dominant one tends to fulfill the submissive half's sexual desires as well. The controlling Ganger shows herself as Lily is Nina's eyes.
Figure 3: Lily (left) and Nina(right)

 Towards the end, what becomes apparent is the fact that the storyline is a dark twist on the original Swan Lake ballet. In the original Swan Lake, A princess is turned into a swan. The spell can only be broken by her true love. However, her prince falls for another woman and the Princess is doomed to remain a swan forever. Finally, she kills herself.

DID usually results in the more vicious personality taking control. Here, Nina's vicious personality or her Black Swan half tries to kill her more submissive White Swan. Ultimately, The White Swan kills the Black Swan. All this takes place with Nina believing that Lily is the one who is trying to kill her and Nina ends up killing Lily. What Nina later comes to realise is that she has stabbed herself in an attempt to get rid of one personality.

Figure 4: Nina as The Black Swan
 This puts one in mind of the situation in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows book where a part of the evil Lord Voldemort's soul is in Harry's body and Harry is required to be killed in order to get rid of that half.
Harry does live, however, Nina has something else in store. Whilst having a glass shard pierced through her, Nina feels most free and gives a fabulous performance. Remarkable CG effects make the audience realise that Nina herself becomes the swan. (A scene where her arms morph into swan wings)
After a wondrous performance, she removes the glass shard from her stomach and realises that she was her own nemesis.
Ultimately, Nina accepts her fate and succumbs to her wounds at the 'top of her game'

She died as the Swan Princess did. As it was her fate.

Bibliography and Illustrations (Woo)


Calhoun, Dave.(2011).Time Out London Review. Available online at

Bradshaw,Peter.(2011).The Guardian Review. Available online at

Waseem,Muhammad.(2010).Medscape Reference. Available online at

Rowling, J.K. (2007) Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury


Figure 1: Aronofsky, Darren. (2010). Black Swan

Figure 2: Aronofsky,Darren.(2010). Black Swan

Figure 3: Aronofsky,Darren.(2010).Black Swan

Figure 4: Aronofsky, Darren.(2010).Black Swan

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