Black Swan | Teen Ink

Black Swan MAG

January 9, 2011
By karen_xo PLATINUM, West Chester, Pennsylvania
karen_xo PLATINUM, West Chester, Pennsylvania
48 articles 7 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."
— Pablo Picasso

“Black Swan” is a visual masterpiece, a disturbing character study, and a gut-wrenching psychological horror film. In one of the best films of the year, Darren Aronofsky directs with a bold artistic vision, documenting the rapid mental breakdown of the paranoid, perfectionist ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman). In an Oscar-winning performance, and certainly the best of her career, Portman sheds her sweetheart attitude and travels to new acting depths, at the same time as her character loses her innocence and descends into madness.

In fact, “Black Swan” abounds with artistic parallels. It is a film about ballet, and moreover it is a ballet; it features over-the-top theatricality and uses the nightmarish music of Tchaikovsky's “Swan Lake,” the ballet around which the film is centered.

In “Swan Lake,” one dancer must portray both the innocent White Swan and her evil twin, the sensual Black Swan. The psychological duality of these roles parallels Nina's own duality, which she explores with devastating results. The doppelganger aspect of “Swan Lake” is also evidenced in the film as Nina is haunted by her double, the free-spirited Lily (Mila Kunis), who becomes Nina's understudy and seems to embody her darker side.

As Nina struggles with her ballet role, she must deal with other issues as well, ranging from her strained relationship with her repressive mother (Barbara Hershey) to unwanted attention from the ballet company's director (Vincent Cassel). Also suffering from an eating disorder, obsession, and paranoia, Nina bends under the immense pressure and begins to see grisly hallucinations that take a toll on her mental health.

But in a film with an unreliable protagonist, reality and hallucinations are often indistinguishable, and this is what makes the film so compelling. The viewer must judge whether Nina's perspective is accurate and if certain events even happen. Thus “Black Swan” becomes a multilayered film with many possible interpretations.

This complexity is further enhanced by Aronofsky's clever manipulation of mirrors; with a mirror in almost every scene. Mirrors are often associated with deception, desire for perfection, and duality, all concepts explored here. Moreover, small details including the color of Nina's clothing illustrate her struggle. Her war­drobe changes from light to dark, paralleling her collapse and psychological transformation from the pure White Swan to the evil Black Swan.

Symbolism and parallelism aside, “Black Swan” is an audacious declaration of Aronofsky's creativity. He constructs an unlikely blend of horror and ballet, mental illness and artistic devotion. These mismatched themes work surprisingly well together, and we soon realize that the music of “Swan Lake” totally suits the atmosphere of this horror film.

A film like “Black Swan” is rare: it is as nightmarish as it is exquisite, as disturbing as it is beautiful. It explores not only the duality within everyone but also the fine line between hallucination and reality. The film takes us to intimate places with Nina, and we cannot help but empathize with her, making the film, though over-the-top (and intentionally so), seem frighteningly real.

This movie is rated R.

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This article has 4 comments.

on Apr. 13 2011 at 6:42 pm
callie15 BRONZE, North Plains, Oregon
3 articles 21 photos 424 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I dreamed I was a butterfly, flitting around in the sky; then I awoke. Now I wonder: Am I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming that I am a man?"
-Chuang Tzu

"No man with a good car needs to be justified!"
-Wise Blood

fantastic review! i wish my parents would let me watch black swan, because i'd watch it in a heartbeat! they really should write a book... anyways, great review! brava!

babeas101 said...
on Apr. 5 2011 at 11:45 pm
amazing article! might want to siplifiy it abit more for younger, 13-15 year olds

on Mar. 29 2011 at 12:08 pm
karen_xo PLATINUM, West Chester, Pennsylvania
48 articles 7 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."
— Pablo Picasso

(I'm the writer of this review.)

To Teen Ink:

I understand that you reserve the right to edit all pieces, but what I don't understand is why you feel the need to make glaring grammatical errors and use childish diction that takes away from the effect of my review.

For instance, you changed the first sentence of the sixth paragraph so that it is no longer a complete sentence. "With a mirror in almost scene" is NOT a complete clause and thus cannot be separated from the rest of the sentence by a semicolon.

Also, what serious film reviewer uses the word "totally"? ...

on Jan. 17 2011 at 2:05 pm
DoloresDarling, Cambridge, Ohio
0 articles 0 photos 137 comments

Favorite Quote:
Sarah Michelle Gellar- [on the importance of reading] I love books. I\'m constantly afraid we\'re moving into this digital era where books are going to go away, and to me books are the basis to everything in life. Reading is how we function.

Love the article, because just last night I watched the movie, and it really confused me alot, I knew she lost her sanity, which is obvious but it was so hard to figure out what her issue was in the movie, but I loved the movie :3 It was a amazing.