Sunday, March 6, 2011

Black Swan

Birds, wings, flight, dreams of flying & falling and metamorphosis into a bird are powerful as symbols, windows into the unconscious, in art and in language...We feel caged, have our wings clipped, fly the nest....

Darren Aronofsky's film Black Swan is a gorgeous dark fairy tale.  I love the way the meaning is layered and complex so that for those of a prosaic disposition there is a literal pathway to navigate the story, but the imagery also works on a symbolic level as the story of ballet Swan Lake, the competition between the white and black swans, and also as a metaphor for the creative process, what art does to the performer, what they do to themself.

Little girls' dreams of being a ballet dancer are brutalised in the transformation of Natalie Portman's character Nina, who has to release and almost rip-out an erotic and self-confident black swan from her body, from this fragile and vulnerable mummy's girl.  The film is also a staged conflict between perfection and passion and about what ambition does to you, what you will do for it.

The other women in the film serve as distorted mirrors to Nina: her possessive and controlling mother living vicariously through her daughter's achievement (Barbara Hershey) the older, jealous, suicidal and discarded principal dancer (Winona Rider) and sly and sensuous Lily (Mila Kunis), her doppelganger rival.  They even look like her, or how she might become, and she has to attack them or escape them to suceed.

The final image of her is almost post-coital, triumphant and bloodied, lying on a mattress...

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