Darren Aronofsky takes us on the psychological journey of Nina Sayers played by Natalie Portman as she tries to break all barriers in her quest to play the darker version of the twins in 2010s ‘Black Swan’. The story evolves around Nina, a ballerina who auditions for a celebrated play that is " Swan Lake ‘. Nina is a perfect fit for the white swan but struggles to meet the personality of the darker side of the Black Swan. Lily played by Mila Kunis is however more fitted to that role as she strives on her sexuality and aura. The two ultimately indulge on each other’s company.
I am intrigued by how many themes and subjects Darren Aronofsky touches on in this film surrounding a ballerinas struggle to find an inner character. “Fantastically deranged at all times, Darren Aronofsky's ballet psycho-melodrama is a glittering, crackling, outrageously pickable scab of a film.” (BRADSHOW, 2011). From self-harm/ body horror of ballerinas to breaking Psychological barriers, we see Nina’s transition from an innocent, vulnerable ballerina to her fighting the demons within. The shocking destruction of theses ballerinas searching for perfection is taken out on their bodies. The film shows Beth, lead dancer played by Winona Ryder being replaced by Nina, as she is not able to keep up with the show. She looks grey and drained, as though her body is about to give up on her.
We are introduced to her mother Barbara Hershey who plays Erica Sayers an ex ballerina whose career come to an end with the birth of her daughter Nina. This monstrous mother ties her daughter down to do nothing but to focus on her dancing, as she was not able to reach the peak of her career. “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,”(BRADSHOW, 2011). A difficult mother who wouldn’t even let her take her own clothe off. The demanding desire for perfection from director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), Lily breathing over her neck for that main role and the constant presence of her mother in her life leads to her darker side unveiling.
As well as using body horror to show the indented theme for this film Aronofsky uses another technique to dictate the anticipation and suspense in this film. “The horror/thriller movie influences are found in many scenes in which Nina is alone and her fragile mind begins to buckle under the pressure. All the classic tropes are there - freakish “reflection” shots, see-it-now-you-don’t jump scares, sound bridging that blends the noise of one scene into another - classic tricks designed to keep you, the viewer, as edgy and frightened as Nina.” (OUTLAW,). Whenever Aronofsky starts to build tension in a scene he would shoot from behind Nina’s head to give us the audience an experience of what Nina is seeing or going through. The audience is always in the world of the black swan. We have no escape. He also uses the mirror countless times to create suspense; the greatest battle you will ever fight is against yourself whether you have a goal to reach or just breaking free.
This film takes us on a psychological journey in which the nightmare of Nina’s become her reality. Haunted by herself and the only way to break out of it is to give in. This film teaches us that in order for a human being to be fully accomplished it has to find a darker side to break free.
List of illustration
Published Thursday 20 January 2011