An artistic masterpiece, Black Swan is a 2010 movie of the Psychological Thriller genre. A truly exciting, beautiful and mesmerising movie, it was directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder. The movie was not only a success among the masses but also went on to be nominated for five Academy awards of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing categories and won one for Portman’s performance in the leading role!
The plot revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet by a prestigious New York City company. The production requires a ballerina to play the innocent and fragile White Swan, for which Portman’s character, Nina is a perfect fit, but she must also play the dark, seductive and evil Black Swan, which are qualities better embodied by the new arrival Lily (Kunis). To secure her role as the white swan, Nina must get into character and bring out her deepest hidden feelings of malice, hatred, aggression as well as passion which slowly leads to her own downfall. The film shows us how Nina gets so mentally and emotionally engrossed in her character that she develops a mental disorder of an Obssessive Compulsive types.
The movie is shot beautifully and shows us how the production slowly destroys the good, obedient girl Nina as she starts suffering from OCD, anorexia(seen when she stares at a grapefruit and turns away the slice of cake her mother gives her in order to celebrate her getting the role), bulimia( seen as she keeps ruuning to the washroom to throw up) and falls under the pressure and stress to be perfect. Nina’s portrayal as the Black Swan destroys her. It is metaphorical in a way that the character achieves artistic perfection because of the psychological and physical challenges one might encounter. In director, Darren Aronofsky’s words “the film can be perceived as a poetic metaphor for the birth of an artist, that is, as a visual representation of Nina’s psychic odyssey toward achieving artistic perfection and of the price to be paid for it.”
That process of Nina being told to study Lily to obtain the seduction, passion and aggression unhinges Nina in a series of terrifying and depressing scenes that keep shifting between reality and Nina’s psychosis. Her previously controlled and co-dependent relationship with her mother, a typical former-ballerina-turned-stage-mom which is brilliantly portrayed by Barabara Hershey, explodes into one with aggressive fights, disobedience( Since Nina used to be an obedient daughter) and violence. The film shows Nina compulsively harming herself to become the Black Swan she is trying so desperately to perfect. She keeps pulling at extra skin near her finger nail until she tears away at her skin and bleeds. Scenes such as the one where she scratches her back until she gets the swan shaped ruptures of the black swan, thrilled the audience and kept them deeply engrossed in the movie.
The character of Nina points towards her mental disorder which on close observation can be revealed to be schizophrenia. Nina seems to develop the illness due to the comptetion she faces from her mother, her feelings of inferiority from Lily and her director’s sexual advances towards her alongside her eating disorders and anxiety. Nina’s hallucinations, constantly hearing voices point towards her psychosis which ultimately lead to her end. As the movie progresses, especially towards the end, we see Nina( basically, her hallucinations) as she slowly develops webbed feet and feathers and turns into the swan. She sheds away her sweet, good girl side to embrace her darker side in order to please her demanding, sexually aggressive director. Her hallucinations are so real that it is difficult to differ between what we are watching is her imagination or reality. The scenes were disturbing, fascinating and mysterious in a way that it was tough to interpret reality.
The movie, overall, is a beautiful yet frightening depiction of disorders like Ocd, self harm, bulimia, anorexia and schrizophenia.