If you’ve seen director Darren Aronofsky’s latest work, then you‘re no doubt searching for a Black Swan movie interpretation. That‘s because the entire film is a brilliant and frequently dreamlike look at the price one pays for artistic excellence. The central plot concerns a ballerina (Natalie Portman) who tries to live up to expectations in the dual role of the White Swan and Black Swan during a production of Swan Lake. But it’s a lot more complex than it sounds, and many viewers have been seen wandering the theatre parking lot in a confused stupor.
But your worries are at an end, as a Black Swan movie explanation will be coming your way in just a few short minutes. I’ll also throw in a Black Swan movie analysis at no extra charge. But no matter how many opinions I deliver, just keep in mind that the only person with the real answers is Darren Aronofsky. And like many artists who deliver brilliantly mind-bending works, he’s keeping quiet on the subject.
The Origin of Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky first became fascinated with ballet when his sister performed at New York’s High School of Performing Arts. Years later, he hired a group of screenwriters to re-work a script about understudies and the idea of being haunted by a double. Then he dabbled with a project about a wrestler who falls in love with a ballerina. Eventually, this tale would be split into The Wrestler and subsequently Black Swan.
Aronofsky considers the two films to be companion pieces, saying “Wrestling some consider the lowest art–if they would even call it art–and ballet some people consider the highest art. But what was amazing to me was how similar the performers in both of these worlds are. They both make incredible use of their bodies to express themselves.”
He first mentioned the idea to Natalie Portman in 2000, and she was keen to expand her resume of diverse acting roles. While the project wouldn’t begin for another nine years, Portman has stated that this gave her plenty of time to mull the role over and get it straight in her head. That’s probably a good thing, as many who’ve seen the film will be wondering for decades without a little help from a Black Swan movie interpretation.
The Plot of Black Swan
Before I can provide you with a decent Black Swan movie analysis, we first need to take a look at the overall plot and meaning of the film. This section is filled with spoilers, so you might consider skipping this part if you‘ve yet to see the film.
Black Swan is set in New York City, where a respected ballet company is making plans to put on a production of Swan Lake. Aging ballet superstar Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) has been kicked to the curb, and company director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is looking for some fresh meat to fill the dual lead role of the White Swan and the Black Swan. The frontrunner is Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a beautiful and talented ballerina who Leroy would love to take to bed. Another dancer competing for the part is Lily (Mila Kunis), an exotic beauty who’s more in touch with her sensuality than Nina.
As everyone auditions and frets about the upcoming ballet, the audience gets a glimpse of Nina’s life at home. She lives with her controlling mother (Barbara Hershey), herself a failed dancer. She hopes Nina will surpass her limited success, so she pushes the young woman at every turn.
Leroy is in a bit of a pickle, as he wants to cast Nina (and subsequently have sex with her), but he doesn’t know if she has what it takes to embody the Black Swan role. As the pair share a kiss, Nina surprises him by biting his lip. Shocked, and more than a little turned on, he decides to go ahead and award her the part. But just in case, he casts the naturally sensual Lily as her understudy.
Nina develops an unsightly rash on her shoulder, and at the same time begins to be plagued by bizarre and graphically brutal visions. Things aren’t going any better at work, as her inhibitions are holding her back, and her reluctance to sleep with Thomas are making him increasingly frustrated. And like a rotten cherry on top of her life sundae, she becomes convinced that Lily is scheming behind her back to take the lead role.
Nina is more than a little surprised when Lily shows up at her door, inviting her out for dinner and dancing. But they wind up having a great time thanks to drugs and alcohol, and soon they’re getting in some lesbian action on Nina’s bed. But when the next morning comes, Lily is nowhere to be found, and Nina finds that she’s later for rehearsal.
When she arrives at the theatre, she’s shocked to find Lily dancing the part of the Swan Queen. Hurt and betrayed, she confronts Lily and asks why she didn’t wake her. Lily plays dumb, saying that she went home the previous night with a guy from the club. Lily mocks Nina’s sexual attraction to her.
The rash on Nina’s shoulder is getting worse, and picking at the wound reveals several black feathers imbedded inside. Her mother’s painting are also talking to her, and the horrific visions continue. It becomes too much for Nina to take, and she falls over, knocking herself out in the process.
Her mother discovers her the next morning, making the decision to call the company and tell them that her daughter won’t be there for opening night. That’s when Nina becomes violent, savagely lashing out at her parent in an effort to make the show on time. Once backstage at the theatre, she begins to prepare in earnest.
The first act is a disaster. Nina’s partner drops her while they dance, and she returns backstage to find Lily waiting in her dressing room, dressed as the Black Swan. Nina attacks her, breaking a mirror and stabbing Lily with one of the shards. Hiding the corpse of her rival, Nina returns to the stage for the second act and gives a brilliant performance. As she receives a standing ovation, Nina imagines that black feathers have sprouted from her body.
When she returns to her dressing room to prepare for the final act, she finds Lily waiting to congratulate her. As it turns out, Nina did not stab Lily. Noticing the broken mirror, Nina realizes that her fevered brain caused her to stab herself. But she heads to the stage anyway, dancing with both passion and abandon as her life fades away. She tries to leap to her death in an emulation of the Swan Queen, and the members of the concerned cast and crew surround her. Proud of her performance, Nina triumphantly comments as she does, “I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect.”
Black Swan Movie Interpretation
Now for the Black Swan movie analysis that you’ve been waiting patiently for:
Nina is nuts. There, I said it. To be more specific, she’s suffering from a mental condition known as schizophrenia. Without treatment, this disorder can be a real bitch, resulting in hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and disorganized thinking and speech.
The schizophrenia is brought on by the extreme pressure Nina is under, both from her mother, her dance director, and herself. She desires to be perfect, and this unattainable desire is slowly eating away at the walls of her psyche. It also doesn’t help that she’s struggling with confused sexual feelings, from the advances of her boss to the strong attraction to her chief rival.
While the film winds its way towards a grand conclusion, you should be able to chart a definite increase in Nina’s hallucinations. These start small in the beginning phase of the movie, but opening night brings her paranoia and obsession into full, bloody bloom.
As she obsesses about being able to pull off the role of the Black Swan, her personality shifts to one that’s more sensuous, unpredictable, and violent. After she believes herself to have killed Lily, she fully transforms into the Black Swan, with plenty of delusional feathers to prove it.
And if you need further proof that she’s losing her mind, just check out the increasingly deep scratches on her shoulder. Her mother recognizes this pattern (“You are scratching again”), which is part of the reason she tries to keep Nina confined to her home. But Nina’s art is more important than her health, and her desire to excel drives her to risk everything in an effort to achieve artistic perfection. The same can be witnessed at the conclusion of The Wrestler, as Mickey Rourke’s Randy “The Ram” Robinson leaps from the turnbuckles in a final display of artistic integrity and passion.
That wraps up our Black Swan movie interpretation. I hope you’ve found it instructive, and now maybe you’ll stop bothering your friends and family for an explanation. To read an explanation of the symbolism in 2011′s weird film The Tree of Life, read this “The Tree of Life movie interpretation“. Life By the way, in case anyone out there was wondering, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the same person in Fight Club, and Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects is actually Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey). Have a nice day.