Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black Swan

This movie is so very incredible. Visually it's just beautiful - the ballet scenes are gorgeous and really draw you in and the scenes behind the ballet, Nina's house and the backstage, the bar, all of that just becomes so very rough and raw looking beside the brilliance of the stage.

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a chorus girl in a professional ballet troupe who tries out for the lead role in the troupes opening production of swan lake. At first she is shot down for the role because she's technically perfect and could dance for the White Swan (who is supposed to be distant, beautiful and virginal) but she lacks the passion and ability to let herself go for the Black Swan.

However, she approaches the director to give her the role and he kisses her, trying to draw some emotion out of her. She bites him and that convinces him that somewhere deep inside her there's the passion to play the seductive Black Swan.

Of course, behind the scenes is Nina's mother who is really really Mommie Dearest. She had to give up her 'career' in ballet because she got pregnant with Nina and is trying to live out her dreams through her daughter. She pushes her to be the perfect ballerina but also keeps her virginal and childlike. Nina's bedroom (Nina is probably in her 20s though it's never stated) is entirely pink with little kid wallpaper and giant stuffed animals everywhere. It is very much a young girls room and it looks like it's the same room she's had since she was 12. There are no locks on any of the doors so her mother can come in at *any* time - which gets very awkward fairly early on in the film...the mother spends all of her time and energy obsessed with her daughter (her room is wall to wall paintings that she's done of Nina. Wall to wall.) and doesn't let Nina out of her sight. Calls her all the time. It's nuts!

Anyway. Nina has very clearly been driven to the edge by her mother who she can't seem to escape and then with the pressure of suddenly having the role that will make her perfect - will elevate her above her mother's failed life - she starts to snap. Since the movie is done from Nina's point of view and Nina is so very much not a reliable narrator it's hard to tell what is real and what isn't and there's some debate between myself and my movie buddy as to what all Nina did in her deep bouts of crazy, but I think that's brilliant as you get to decide for yourself just how vicious Nina gets in her psychosis.

This whole mother fucking with her mind and then the stress is just compounded by Nina's sexual awakening. I don't believe her for a second when she says in the movie that she's had a few boyfriends and isn't a virgin. Her relationship with her mother is way too creepy for that to be true. Nina would never be able to meet a man since she's not allowed to go out at any time and her mother would never loose track of her long enough for her to trip over someone let alone meet them, get over her extreme shyness and have sex with them. Nina's like a child who has their first crush but she's got the body and the hormones of a fully grown woman and no idea what she's supposed to do with it all.

She's obsessed with the former lead dancer, Beth - because, in my opinion, she wants to *be* Beth. She sees her as everything that Nina wants to be - strong, sexual, aggressive, adored and perfect. Nina actually steals Beth's things and wears them (her makeup, scarves, earrings, etc.) - playing dress up and trying to be her. Nina has this child crush on the director Tomas (who also happens to be sleeping with Beth) and fixates on him as this ideal man - which is so very much is not. But she doesn't have a healthy way to deal with these sudden feelings - she doesn't know what to do with them and all of this just keeps boiling inside of her and she starts hallucinating and having deeply paranoid fantasies that lead her to do some truly insane things.


  1. I couldnt read the post because I'm going to see this with A :) It does look really good.

  2. Come back after you've seen it and tell me what you think. :)

  3. I wanted to see this soooo bad but I hardly ever get the chance to go out with my husband w/o our children. When I finally got the chance earlier this month when my birthday rolled around, it wasn't even playing in my cultureless, idiotic midwestern city. Oh, well, guess I'll catch it on dvd. I can't wait. i do love a well made and thought provoking film.

  4. Hi Stephanie,

    It's well worth waiting for the dvd. I really went half expecting to just enjoy the ballet parts and being 'meh'-y on what I assumed was just a typical psycho thriller with one dancer stalking the other. But it's so much better than that. I'm very glad I was wrong with my pre-judgement.


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