While trying to get motivated to do my homework this past Sunday night, after finishing Sex and the City: The Movie for the twelfth hundredth time, I popped in Black Swan. As I was avoiding homework, watching this movie, and thinking about how much my fiancé hates it, it dawned on me. My thoughts on this movie are blog worthy. Aren’t you just excited to see where I’ll go with this one? If you haven’t seen it, spoilers ahead. Just a fair warning. To discuss this movie, they are unavoidable.
Unless you’re a guy thrilled by the lesbian scene, you like weird psychological thrillers where you’re not quite sure what just happened, or you’re just a diehard Natalie Portman fan, you probably found this movie a little too weird for your tastes. I’m not usually a fan of psychological thrillers, lesbian scenes, or particularly Natalie Portman. That being said, I really liked this movie the first time I saw it. The previews intrigued me and when Bear took me to see it at the Brewery, I was fascinated. I was still fascinated when I rented it from the library and watched it several more times. The movie itself was artfully done. You’re not sure if it’s all in her head or if there is a supernatural element at play, the story of Swan Lake with a twist. I love stories where that is the main question. Is it in your head or is it real? That is why I love “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman so much.
All of the above being said, here is my analysis of the movie and a little insight as to why I like it so much. I think it is psychological, although the idea of her turning into a swan at the end is kinda on the side of awesome. So was the ending of “The Yellow Wallpaper” but I took the psychological side on that argument as well. Maybe it’s because, despite of my love of the unknown, I enjoy watching real stories, with real women facing their demons, and I think that is what happened in both of these works.
Nina was a woman living in a rigid world. Whether that was a product of her making or her mother’s is up for some debate. However she got to be that way, it is what it is. I think during the entire movie, from the time she got the leading role in Swan Lake until the end, you watch her trying to break free from that rigid life she had been leading. She didn’t do it particularly well, but it is what it is.
It probably didn’t freak me out nearly enough how much I felt I could relate to Nina.
One of the key things I felt made Nina relatable was the presentation of the dual personality. Before you jump to the natural assumption that comes with hearing “dual personality,” let me explain further. I believe there is a certain duality in all women, light and dark, deadly and nurturing, loving and cruel. It’s like the duality we see in nature, and it was presented beautifully in Black Swan. For too long, the dual nature in Nina was unbalanced, the good and rigid and controlled part of her was in charge for too long. Everything is about perfection and she lives her life in perpetual fear of failing. Failing herself, her mother, her boss. That fragile way of living is something I recognized because there was a time when I felt like that. But unlike Nina, my fear was healthy and I controlled it by learning how to say “I don’t care.” That way of living did not dictate me or my life or who I would become, but it did for her. And by the time she tried to break free of it, it was too late. The side of her that was repressed for the better part of her life had been biding its time, growing stronger and stronger until the scales tipped violently and suddenly.
There’s a heart stopping moment when she is in the dressing room near the end, and you see her eyes flash red and she keeps saying to the woman she “stabbed” that it’s “my turn! It’s my turn!” The darker side of her nature was held under water for too long and it took over with a vengeance. Even while dancing as the black swan, she is bleeding from a self-inflicted wound (and that applies on more than just the physical level) and yet, she is more alive in that short segment than she was in the entire movie. She dances with passion and authority, with a sense of power and sexuality that was not possible before, when the white swan Nina ruled her body. The black swan Nina not only rules her body, but she rules the audience, the cast, and even her boss, blowing all of them away with what lived inside of her for so long.
The tragedy in the final segment of Swan Lake where the white swan kills herself is reflected in Nina herself. Perhaps this imbalance in Nina came to head at this time because the role in Swan Lake so reflected her own inner turmoil. Frail, fragile beauty losing out to the darker twin, the stronger, more seductive one is just what happened to Nina. Only the twin was not another physical being, but a piece of herself.
The entire movie was an internal struggle that ultimately culminates in the realization that she stabbed herself with that piece of broken glass. The white swan does kill herself, however unintentionally, losing the battle with her darker side. This could be taken as a warning to all women, to keep their darker nature under wraps, for fear of losing control and completely destroying their lives. I take it as a warning to keep that balance between the lighter, nurturing half of yourself and the darker, violent half.
As women, we possess the capability for both the white swan and the black swan and the sooner we recognize that for ourselves, the better off we will be. The happier and healthier we will be. Do not fear the black swan. She is just a part of you and if you want to keep the lady pleased, every now and then she has to be let out to play.