Ballet is one of the most challenging forms of dance. It is elegant, graceful, and poignant. It can also alter one’s body and mind for the rest of their life. Black Swan takes a literal approach, using its highs and lows to showcase a young woman’s descent into insanity, (which is in my opinion, one of the scariest movie genres), portrayed wonderfully by Natalie Portman. Let’s discuss.
Dangers of repression explored
Nina Sayers is a ballet dancer who lives with her overbearing mother. When her company announces Swan Lake as their new show, Nina auditions for the lead. She captures the innocent Odette perfectly but not the sultry Odile. This serves as a brilliant reflection of Nina’s life; her mother dictates all decisions and her co-workers look down on her. Even Nina’s bedroom still looks like a little girl lives there.
The stakes rise when Lily, another dancer, turns up. Nina is immediately threatened by Lily and the way she embodies the Black Swan. This is an interesting exploration of Nina’s psyche. Not having a supportive environment or a healthy outlet for negative emotions can cause detrimental effects. Nina’s drug-induced fantasy also implies she’s possibly repressing her sexual orientation, or at least wishes to experiment.
Perfection may be attainable if one dares
A major theme of the film is perfection and the dangers of it, with ballet serving as a setting. There is no doubt that Nina was a ticking time bomb. If the challenges of Swan Lake weren’t going to break her, something else would have. It’s not really living if you only live for others. It’s hinted that even ballet to an extent is her mother’s influence rather than genuine desire.
Was Nina depressed and even suicidal towards the end of the movie? It’s possible. After all, the point of the film is that perfection is a concept and success has a cost. Nina stabbing herself while thinking it’s Lily also suggests she hates herself and her ‘darker’ impulses, further pushing down those desires which only causes more damage.
Psychoanalysis aside, Black Swan is a beautifully made film that put the stunning visuals ballet provides to good use. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis are great in their respective roles and play well with one another. The creepy factor is not so much in the events themselves but rather in their implications and it absolutely works. Definitely, one to watch if you want to think while doing it.