>I just got back from seeing the movie Black Swan at Harkins for the first time today, and honestly…I’m pretty conflicted about it.
Let’s start off with the good.
Natalie Portman was excellent. I can see now why she one an Oscar for her role. I was 100% immersed in her character Nina. In fact, a lot of the time, I felt I was her character.
I think that says a lot about Natalie as an actress. She is so good that she makes her viewers forget who they are yet at the same time enables them to see themselves reflected in her role. That’s how I felt about her performance, anyway.
But really, for me it goes deeper than this. I get what it means to be that nice, sweet girl, that one who (more or less) never gets into trouble. That one who strives toward perfection in her work and is devastated, or at least pretty upset, as she realizes that her work is not as perfect as she’d hoped. I understand what it feels like to be told to “let go” and “live a little” yet continue to refuse because it could mean risking coming in contact with the darker side of one’s self. On all of these points I could identify with Portman’s role as the delicate (and ultimately imperfect) Nina Sayers.
Because that’s what it means to be human. Nina’s way of life is just one of many ways to be human. A flawed, tragic human, but human nevertheless.
It’s ironic, really, what happens to Nina in Black Swan because what she really does is trade one form of perfection for another, so that the area she once was “perfect” in (or at least perceived to be perfect in) is compromised so that she might become “perfect” in another way.
And that’s where my conflicted sentiments about the film come into play.
That Typical “Good Girl Gone Bad” Story
There’s a part in the movie where Thomas (I guess he’s the head honcho of the dance company Nina works for), played by Vincent Cassel, is trying to get Nina to “open up” to him and stop being so inhibited. He asks her bluntly, “You’re not a virgin, are you?” (Really, you should hear the tone he uses here.)
Nina, after some time, replies softly, “No.” (And actually, I didn’t believe her when she said this, like she was just too ashamed to admit it in this harrowing-prick-of-a-man’s presence; but maybe that’s just my interpretation of Natalie’s acting.)
Thomas then smiles as says, “So there is nothing to be embarrassed about.”
. . .
Why should it be “embarrassing” to be a virgin in the first place? Why can’t it simply be a choice, a way of life? (Ooo, don’t even get me started on this point.) Honestly, if I was in Nina’s position, I would have pimp-slapped that man. (Actually, I wouldn’t have even taken his invitation to have drinks alone with him in his home in the first place.) But if this one exchange doesn’t say loads about the overall lack of morality in this film, then I don’t know what does.
Even worse is the fact that Nina chooses to become what she does by the end of the movie and sees it as “perfection.” It’s disgusting, to be frank. Horrific. But inevitably, I guess that’s what the whole movie was about.
What I Took Away From This
I realize I’m making some very subjective remarks here, but that’s just the nature of this post.
What I can say is this: I truly do admire the beautiful, weird, fantastical poetry of the overall film and Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Nina. There were a lot of things I could have done without (like the unabashed lesbian sex scene), but for the most part I enjoyed the film.
I felt it achieved the thing I talked about on Wednesday evening, about “creating an experience,” because Black Swan was most definitely an emotional experience, and the creepy, fantastical element only enhanced that experience. It was beautiful and ugly all at once. Light and dark. Good and evil. The White Swan vs. the Black Swan, essentially.
If there’s one thing I can take away from this film that applies to writing fiction, it’s that fantasy can be used to create unique situations which highlight the themes of humanity, making them larger than life. And since I’m writing fantasy, I think that’s just great.
Have You Seen Black Swan?
If so, what are your thoughts about it? How did it make you feel? What, if anything, were you able to take away from it?