**** POSSIBLE SPOILERS ****
This is rare, but I would like to talk about a 21st century, even a 2011 movie! This week, I went to see the much talked about Black Swan, Darren Aronosfky’s (Requiem for a Dream, coming up on this blog soon) latest film, and I felt it deserved an entry, as it is probably on its way to become a classic, if only because of Natalie Portman’s mind-blowing performance. We should know next Sunday (27/02/11) if she is getting the Best Actress Oscar.
The official plot states: “A ballet dancer wins the lead in "Swan Lake" and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan - Princess Odette - but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odette's evil sister, Odile, the Black Swan”.
First things first: this is not a movie about ballerinas and the competitive world of ballet dancing.
Nina is overwhelmed, overprotected, and generally choked by her mother, whose career as a ballet dancer never took off. She is the “perfect white swan”, innocent, pure, naïve. In many ways, she is still a child, as is reminded several times in the movie: the pink room full of teddy bears, the mother watching her sleep, etc….. The “perfect black swan”, in contrast, is portrayed by Rival Lily (Mila Kunis): dark, seductive, sexual.
If we accept that we all have multiple aspects to our personalities, then to me Nina is the Child, and Lily is the Woman / Adult, everything Nina aspires to, everything she wants to be, but cannot, as her mother makes sure she remains this fragile, dependent child she can live through. So Nina goes through this over-accelerated, overwhelming teenage crisis she should have gone through years before – the crisis is worsened by the pressure of the competition for the role, as Lily is a friend, a fantasy, but also the alternate, so definitely a rival. On top of it, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, magnetic and a tad sadistic), after detecting a dark side in her and picking her for the role, keeps using his charms to unleash Nina’s sexuality, seduction, to unleash her Inner Woman, so to speak – in doing so, he pushes her overboard:
The only person standing in your way is you. It's time to let her go. Lose yourself.
There is also, to me, a lesson on the search for perfection: technically, Nina is perfect, she masters the technique perfectly, but as Thomas tells her:
I see you obsess, getting each and every move perfectly right. But I never see you lose yourself. Ever. All the discipline, for what?
Perfection implies control, and control means absence of spontaneity, which is what Nina is told throughout the movie. This also leads her to doubt Lily’s intentions, as she quickly sees her as a rival: Watch the way she moves. Imprecise but effortless. She's not faking it.
As my grandmother would say: “The best is the enemy of the good”.
Interesting choice of words from Thomas at the very beginning, too:
We open our season with Swan Lake. Done to death I know, but not like this.