Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Black Swan Film Review

The Black Swan Poster Art

The Black Swan is a psychological thriller staring Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers, an aspiring ballerina whom lands the role of the Swan Queen in the New York City Ballet Company's production of the widely acclaimed Swan Lake. Directed by Darren Aronofsky Black Swan delves deep into the psyche of Nina. As the film progresses the audience become entangled in the monstrous pursuit of perfection where jealousy, anger and bitterness are at a boil in the young dancers mind.

A predominantly female cast, all of whom opitimize surface beauty. Even Nina's over bearing, neurotic mother has a certain spark of a woman once beautiful and idolised now reduced to living her dreams and fantasies through her daughter. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian describes Nina's mother played by veteran actress Barbera Hershey as "A difficult mother 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" (2011) . The Film presents to the audience that beauty really is only skin deep as behind the stage curtains the apparently beautiful ballet dancers are self centered monsters savouring the schadenfreude in others particularly the newly crowned Swan Queen.

Nina becomes compacted in this world so ugly even your own mother would stab you in the back given an opening. Her mind becomes like an animal in a cage being prodded and jeered at by her peers. At first vulnerable, cowering and looking for the nearest exit she eventually snaps and falls into a whirlwind of insanity, consumed by bitterness and jealousy towards Lily, a rival at the ballet company. Her jealousy stems from Lily's ability to live as a free spirit and dance impulsively and not out of an awkward sense to please.

The use of mirrors in the Black Swan emphasises appearence and self awareness. Nina is aware of how she is percieved by others and is obsessed by her imperfections. "Crammed with twins — lookalikes, mirrored images, doppelgängers." (Dargis,2010)  This obsession rots away inside her, the slow decomposition of her mental state is clear to the audience as a slow cancerous process. The mirrors also present the awareness of mortality. That physical beauty is not eternal and like Ninas mental state will also wither and become decrepit. "Black Swan does a fine job of exploring not just the prima ballerina competition and the toll it takes on an individual, but also the psyche of a person who most probably has obsessive-compulsive disorder . . . and maybe more." (Plath,2011)

In addition the use of colour in the film depicts Nina's descent into madness. The contrast between white and black is referenced throughout the entire film expressing the dualities between good and evil, something which everyone possesses.Nina's tranformation through the predominantly white scenes, turning to black, a colour that does not emit or relect light showing the pureness of the Swan Queen has been washed away. The colour also commonly symbolises death. The obsessive jealousy, the ugly pursuit of perfection, her darkness consumes her to her untimely end.

 List Of Illustrations

Fig 1. Beautiful Nina
Fig 2. Nina's descent into madness.
Fig 3. The Black Swan (Images accessed on 20/10/2011)


Peter Bradshaw of 'The Guardian' (published 20,01,2011)  (accessed 20,10,2011)

James Plath of 'DVD Town' (published 03,31,2011)  (accessed 20,10,2011)

Manohla Dargis of 'The NY Times' (Published 02,12,2010) (accessed 20,10,2011)

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