Darren Aronofsky, 2010
Nina (Natalie Portman) is about to become prima ballerina.
Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) from the New York City Ballet is looking for his Swan Queen. He’s mesmerized by Nina. The moment she lands the part, her nightmares begin. She has to deal with the former star dancer Beth Mc Intyre (Wynona Rider). Her mum (Barbara Hershey) is adding to the pressure. Nina also worries Lily (Mila Kunis) might steal the show. She believes Thomas Leroy is harassing her because he’s pushing her to the limit.
The truth is when I look at you all I see is the white swan. Yes you’re beautiful, fearful, and fragile. Ideal casting. But the black swan? It’s a hard fucking job to dance both.
The wise and disciplined Nina is slowly letting her dark side take control to become the Black Swan. She suffers from hallucinations. During the final act, she will commit suicide – like a pro.
It’s about a girl who gets turned into a swan and she needs love to break the spell, but her prince falls for the wrong girl so she kills herself.
Nina receives a standing ovation backstage while she bleeds to death. She delivered a remarquable performance.
Black Swan is about seeking perfection.
Nina is very ambitious. She belongs to the prestigious ballet NYC Ballet. She wants to reach the top.
It’s my turn!
With ambition come great responsibilities. This role requires for her to outperform herself. Nina is a great dancer but she’s too nice. She wants to get the best grade at school. She works hard because she thinks it will make her the number one. She’s a White Swan. To become the Swan Queen, she has to play both White and Black. For that she needs to go one step beyond. She masters everything. To become the Black Swan she has to do the opposite, like Thomas is repeating :
Perfection is not just about control, it’s about letting go.
Thomas is a little radical. He’s even a bit French when he orders Nina to masturbate. He could be easily accused of sexual harassment. What he’s trying to do is to provoke a reaction. He’s trying to help Nina to discover her B-side. It takes discipline to be great. Nina needs to break it to become something else, something more. It’s the only way. She has to be the Black Swan and feel the feathers grow in her back. Thomas would like Nina to step out of herself.
Live a little.
Instead, she leaves the world. She isolates herself and falls into her own paranoïa. It’s true the competitors are numerous. Everyone wants to be her. But isolation is not a solution. Nina is her worst enemy.
The only person standing in your way is you.
She might be a victim. Just like she might not be a victim at all. Thomas is trying to reassure her.
Nobody’s after you!
This is pointless. Too late. Nina is in her own world already. In this dystopia she created, she can’t make any mistake. The pressure is overwhelming, to the point she’s totally loosing it. She has to go so deep in her own sensitivity that she’s getting exposed – which is interesting. She invents her own ghosts. She suffers. She changes. That’s the price for excellency. The best things in life don’t come easy. Going crazy is the condition to make history. That’s the difference between someone like Nina and the other dancers. To become memorable, the part needs to transcends the actress.
Nina is a woman who’s trying to be perfect and she dies because of it. Advertising told women they were worth it (L’Oreal). Then they’ve been told their flaws were also beautiful (Dove). Women are being asked to be the White Swan, then the Black one. It’s not that easy to switch. So women are now being told to be both at the same time, free to do what they want (Kenzo). As if it was easier. It’s killing women.
Do women have to be perfect – one way or another? Why can’t women just be complex? Could women just be left alone?
This publication reflects the views only of the author.