A film that makes you question, that awes and inspires you, but even brings out the worst in you? A brilliant psychological thriller, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is an outstanding example of pure artwork that builds around the life of an artist – a ballerina dancing to the age-old Swan Lake, composed by Tchaikovsky. Featuring in this composition are the significant characters of the white swan, the black swan and the prince. The white, pure and fragile. The black, dark and sensual.
The movie cleverly introduces a third colour in this black and white image that we have of our story – pink. Pink, possibly representing feminism, bridges the gap between purity and darkness. Females have it all. The beauty and the cunning. Nina (starring Natalie Portman), the protagonist, qualifies as beautiful and pure – the white end of the spectrum. Her colleague, Lily (starring Mila Kunis), is ambitious, with dark motives – the black end of the spectrum. As the movie proceeds, Nina closes the gap between the white and the dark, accomplishing and overcoming her inadequacies in order to completely fit the character of the swan. Of both swans. She hallucinates or experiences both physical and mental changes, seeing a reflection of her dark self in her counterpart – Lily. These hallucinations torment her, but the artist in her emerges, and she spreads her wings. The movie is not subject to logic – it is a work of art, in its purest sense. Most of what she experiences turns out to be merely hallucinations, but some elements of it are real (like when her back is scratched and bleeds, the mirror shatters or when she stabs herself). It does not tell the story of a transformation, it narrates a tale of realization. Realization of one’s inner darkness, the latent desires. What Nina sees in the ‘black swan’ Lily is what she becomes. She gives herself a motive for envy and lust, and achieves the same in her final act. She wins over the prince, and kills herself. Just like the swan. The same face takes the shape of innocence, anger, hatred, jealousy, beauty – all of which characterizes a female -the many faces of a woman – and this role is beautifully conquered by Natalie Portman, being no less an artist herself.
The girl is cursed to assume the body of a swan, and only love would set her free. Failing to contest the black swan who seduces the prince and captures him, she escapes life to acquire the ultimate freedom. This is the story of Swan Lake. This is the story of Black Swan. Portman’s character develops wings, webbed feet and red eyes, while she tries to battle evil till she becomes evil and wins the prince (the director). In the process of stabbing her replacement and rival, she stabs herself, bringing an end to her confusion, terror and strife. Ultimate peace and freedom. She is happy, she has reached perfection. The movie does not reveal the fate of the swan that is stabbed in the stomach. Whether she lives or perishes like Tchaikovsky’s white swan is left undeclared. However, after delivering the exhilarating performance of the black swan, her character regains its purity, all shreds of guilt being erased when she sees her victim of murder alive and breathing, congratulating her on her performance. She now assumes the role of the victim, torn and punished. Once again, the white swan is pure, helpless and broken. She sees her overprotective mother before her final fall – sobbing amongst the audience. The ‘prince’ finally calls her his ‘little princess’.
The film plays beautifully with the colours. White, black and pink. Nina’s character is almost always portrayed as white, Lily’s as black. Pink towels, scarves and quilts harp on the side theme of feminism. Attire and sets have been cleverly planned. White and pink ceiling lights have also been cleverly used. The film commences with a faded in from black, and ends with a fade out to white. Besides the colour, the film makes a frequent use of mirrors as props. Nina keeps seeing her reflection transform into someone that is not her, and finally, becomes her. She is her own enemy and victim. Her perfections and imperfections become her, and together, they make her perfect.
Written by- Anisha Gupta