By Constanza Gomez
You have most likely heard of this critically acclaimed film before, if not, you definitely have heard of the famous ballet composed by Peter-Ilitch Thaicovscy, Swan Lake.
This film gets me every time I rewatch it, it plays with your mind and is the perfect combination of my favourite genres; thriller, horror, and drama. Black Swan is about a ballerina, Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), who is obsessed with being perfect. Her character is extremely self-disciplined and is never satisfied with her performance, but well, dancers never are. The plot of this film is truly fascinating and frightening at the same time. Nina is chosen to be the next protagonist of the well known ballet ‘Swan Lake’ after always being played by the most beloved ballerina of the New York City company, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder). This film not only explores the protagonist’s chronic ambition to fit perfectly in the role that makes her go gradually crazy throughout the movie, but it also portrays Nina’s transition from a girl to a mature young woman.
The complexity of the characters in this film is very interesting to examine. To begin with, Natalie Portman was the perfect choice for her character. She embodies Nina in a way I think no other actress could have. She received a very well deserved Oscar for best actress (2011). As I mentioned before, Nina is compulsively obsessive and desires to control every single movement and every part of her body when dancing. She has an impeccable technique, however, her addiction of controlling every action impedes her from dancing freely and showing passion. Her dance instructor, Thomas (Vincent Cassel) grants her the most craved role of all ballet dancers; The Swan Queen. This role is very demanding, since the dancer who interprets it has to be able to embody both the White Swan and the Black Swan perfectly. You might think, this cannot be very hard for a trained dancer right? Well, it is one of the toughest roles because the White swan and the Black swan are polar opposites. The White swan, which is named Oddette, represents innocence and purity. She is depicted as the perfect woman; fragile, delicate, and of course beautiful. Contrarily, the black swan, named Odile, is seductive, sensual, and malicious.
Nina plays the White Swan exquisitely, but struggles to embody the Black Swan. Thomas tells her to let go of her body and stop thinking. ‘Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go’, is what he says to her when discussing the role. This quote has been stuck in my head forever since I first saw the movie. Nina seems challenged by Lily (Mila Kunis), a new dancer that enters the company. Lily is noticed by Thomas and is impressed by her way of dancing. Lily is not as technically precise as Nina, but she flawlessly suits the personality of the Black Swan herself. She dances effortlessly and moves her body smoothly and lets go of it, which is the only thing Nina is missing.
Throughout the film Nina develops further her ambition of fitting perfectly the duality of her role which leads her to discovering a dark side of herself that destroys her sanity. The film techniques used by Aronofsky are amazing and truly enhance the story being told through the picture.
If you genuinely enjoy watching horror movies and psychological thrillers or if you are interested in movies with protagonists as Nina, you should definitely watch this film. And even if it is not your area of interest, I still strongly recommend it since it is a cinematic masterpiece that everyone can appreciate.