Black Swan/The Wrestler, good/bad sexualities and self-destruction as transformation

by on Dec.23, 2010

Beware of spoilers.


I’m surprised nobody’s brought up Black Swan yet, the new Aronofsky film starring Natalie Portman as an overcontrolled frigid ballerina who must learn how to be sexual in order to make great art. I generally love Aronofsky for his grandiosity and adolescence, his willingness to tunnel into black holes of self-destruction and his refusal of reprieve. The instability with which Black Swan approaches self-destruction — at times seeming to fetishize it, at times seeming to mock it (especially at the end) — provides the tension that for me rules the film, and that does so really effectively. But the way in which Aronofsky connects self-destructive and pathologized sexuality is pretty clichéd in both Black Swan and its companion piece, The Wrestler, and both films’ protagonists are gendered in really heavy-handed ways especially with regard to their sexualities.

I can’t decide whether this execution of cliché is interesting or just disappointing. On the one hand, both characters epitomize heteronormativity turned in on itself: Nina, Portman’s character, is in a certain way so highly feminized she (apparently) must also be desexualized (passive, innocent, naïve, virginal (though it’s unclear whether she is, in fact, a virgin)), whereas Randy in The Wrestler is in a certain way so highly masculinized he (apparently) must also be hypersexualized (carnal, virile, irresponsible, wild, found at strip bars when not in the ring) — with both sexualities pathologized to signal the characters’ difficulties connecting with reality and other people.

(Interestingly, the “good” sexuality in Black Swan is taken up by Lily, Nina’s “bad” doppelganger, whose freeness with her body puts Nina’s supposed frigidity in relief — but Lily and her “good” sexuality are also portrayed to a certain extent as fantasy, an extension of Nina’s imagination. In The Wrestler, Marisa Tomei’s character takes up the space of the “good” sexuality — she’s sensual and free with her body, but also she has a kid and is responsible and emotionally stable.) All the old clichés of gender (femininity = innocent, passive, frigid; masculinity = carnal, active, virile) rest on these characters and importantly, turn them into tragic figures. This is interesting.

On the other hand, the fact that both sex without love (in Randy’s case) and art without sex (in Nina’s case, although, again, there is some uncertainty surrounding Nina’s sexual history) are indicative of general malaise and pathology suggests that Aronofsky’s films are really actually pretty invested in espousing a normalcy that these characters are punished (via their deaths) for not attaining. This is disappointing.

What is frustrating and provocative about Black Swan is the difficulty of pinning down the film’s perspective on itself. Thomas, the chauvinist ballet director, does not go uncriticized, but his certainty that Nina must explore her sexuality before she can convincingly dance as the black swan in Swan Lake seems to be a certainty shared by the film. She’s repeatedly called frigid by Thomas; “Do you want to fuck this girl?” (I’m paraphrasing from memory), he asks her male ballet partner, implying that her partner shouldn’t, because Nina’s performance isn’t sexy enough, because Nina isn’t all that interested in sex. The presumption of the film is that disinterest in sex automatically means sexual repression, which automatically means aesthetic blockage. Art must be erotic, according to these terms. This is stupid.

Of course, it might be argued that the problem of the film is not that Nina can’t ‘feel,’ but that Nina believes Thomas: she believes that she will be ‘perfect’ if she can learn how to let go. The ending points to this reading, but I’m resistant to its attendant cruelty towards its character, just as I’m resistant towards Flaubert’s cruelty towards Madame Bovary.

Black Swan’s portrayal of sexual repression and art, as well as its portrayal of grotesque mother-daughter codependence echoes The Piano Teacher a great deal (the novel; been a while since I’ve seen the movie). The crucial difference is that The Piano Teacher understands art as a way of channeling sexual repression as opposed to seeing sexual repression as invariably thwarting artistic possibility. Even if Jelinek is in many ways horrifically (and amusingly) cruel towards Erika, she does not portray her protagonist as so terrifyingly naïve as Aronofsky or Flaubert do theirs. That is the real horror of Black Swan: that anyone can be so naïve to a world that wants to eat her.


In tandem, The Wrestler and Black Swan seem to suggest a crisis in both masculinity and femininity – presenting specifically feminine and specifically masculine forms of abjection — the abjection of being perfect at certain performances of gender that have become obsolete. So their characters must, according to the logic of the films, self-destruct. For Nina, though, this self-destruction — her loss of self in becoming-swan — is her transformation — the goal of the film is for her to lose herself, which she does, and in so doing, must die.

I think a lot about the problem of ending in narrative: of resisting transformation, epiphany, and instead producing a kind of strategic overdeterminism that kills off characters who are not fit to survive in a world that’s fucked. My own work is pretty fatalistic, deterministic, nihilistic – opening up lines of flight and then stubbornly tying them off, their outstretched fingers mercilessly amputated at the knuckle. But the world isn’t actually like that, or at least projects like It Gets Better declare that it isn’t, that there are viable life paths available. Which model of the world is more politically potent? By emphasizing the fact that the world is not made for certain people, as opposed to emphasizing the loopholes that only certain people will ever be able to find, we focus on what needs changing: the world, not the marginalized people who are unable to find their way in it. By emphasizing the loopholes, the resistances, we are sharing survival strategies.

I think what bugs me about Black Swan is that Nina’s self-destruction is not motivated by anything I care about. Well, I care about art, but I don’t care about art that destroys its creator. Well, okay, that’s interesting! But you know, in this film, I just wasn’t convinced. Nina’s self-destruction is not motivated by her character or the very real horrors of her world, but by a flimsy psychological horror plot showcasing remarkable visual effects. Her suicide is dumb, a mistake, which makes it laughable. Ha. I guess?

:, , , , , , , ,
31 comments for this entry:
  1. Tim Jones-Yelvington

    You just captured all of my feelings about this film (BLACK SWAN, I haven’t seen THE WRESTLER) that I haven’t known how to articulate, thanks for that. I have more to say, but I think I am going to do it as a separate post at BIG OTHER.

  2. Lucas de Lima

    I haven’t seen Black Swan yet, but I did just watch Showgirls! It seems like the flip side of Black Swan in some ways, with tawdry sex ruining the art.

  3. Daphne

    Hey, this is great.

    “I generally love Aronofsky for his grandiosity and adolescence” is a perfect way of summing up his appeal to me and my annoyance with that appeal.

    When I am watching movies I am often thinking of Sontag’s distinction between what a film says and what a film does, and with this movie especially it is a handy way of sorting my feelings towards it. For me, what it does is present, viscerally and convincingly, the feeling of being under constant attack (from within and without) — in general but especially in the basic situation of being a woman moving through the world being looked at.

    What it says (blackwhitegoodevilrepressionfreeluv etc.), on the other hand, is muddled, problematic, and, also, boring.

  4. Michael

    Saw Black Swan. I enjoyed it a lot. Let me just sat I agree with 90% of what is written, except:

    I don’t think the film was saying all art must be erotic. Thomas is saying the character of the Black Swan is sexually free — the Black Swan steals the White Swan’s man, essentially. Imagine an actor who must embody a character who is sexually free — to fake it is to fake it (is to fake it), and every actor’s goal is to not be an actor and simply became that character. Nina’s disinterest in sex was her interest in performance perfection, which meant she was “in her head” and not “in the work” — she needed to bring herself out of her comfort zone, and allow her energy to shift. For the idea of sexually disinterest = sexually repression in filmic terms, the film would have to erase the parallel of Swan Lake, as the whole sexual schema then makes sense.

    I think Nina’s self-destruction very much so is motivated by her character and the real horrors of her world. But I believe it is at first a quiet horror, and being cast as the Swan Queen and the following pressure (combined with her need for perfection) only lifted the top off the pot of boiling water. There are hints that she is unhappy, and that her mind was obsessive (the scratching), and even perhaps already unstable. The life she lived with her mother you can tell she never fully enjoyed, and you picked up on it also, and I think this is more a domestic horror for her than is fully understood. We also catch the hint that, you know, maybe her mother went a little too far sometimes before we entered Nina’s life. (The scene where Nina does not want to take off her shirt and her mother insists while taking a step toward her as if to force her to take it off). We also have her mother’s art, her crying on the stool. Nina’s regression could simply be a way to stay small and perfect as to not upset any sort of balance. Ie, Nina is not hungry but will eat a large piece of cake because her mother is going to throw it away.

    I find it somewhat difficult to separate “psychological horror” from Nina’s character or her world, because one bleeds into the others.

  5. megan milks

    thanks, tim — i’m excited to read your post.
    lucas, can you believe i haven’t seen showgirls (YET)? i can’t. i almost want to save it still longer for the best time.
    daphne, nice to see you in these parts. you’re dead on with this saying/doing thing. the distinction, and your application of it, is really helping me more fully understand my own frustration with the film. thanks for the comment!

  6. Gallagher

    You need to see both Black Swan and Showgirls as one:

  7. megan milks

    hi michael, thanks for commenting. i agree with you totally on nina’s psychology, esp w/r/t her relationship with her mom, which is really deftly handled. however, i think you’re being too generous towards thomas, who in inviting another man to judge nina’s fuckability (“Do you want to fuck this girl?”) turns what might have been an aesthetic critique into a personal attack and humiliation that is horribly (if knowingly) misogynist. although yes, i understand that this film follows the arc of one character, it’s hard for me separate that kind of policing of sexuality from the larger historical policing of female sexuality that the film is thus implicated in. (and again, i’m uncertain whether to read the film as critical of that kind of policing or not. but i as a person am critical. and thomas, i would not fuck you.)
    and yeah, i didn’t touch on the swan lake parallel, or the doubling so much although it’s obviously crucial to the film. would love to hear more of your thoughts on the film’s handling of the splitting of self/ impossibility of wholeness.

  8. megan milks

    gallagher: yes. thank you. yes.

  9. Josef Horáček

    I also keep going back and forth about the movie.

    The movie presents a classical ballet company as sort of a microcosmos, an allegory of a world in which traditional gender roles are taken to their limits. A world in which women are repressed, (Nina; Beth, the “retired” prima ballerina; Erica, Nina’s mother), and (older) men act as enlightened predators (Thomas). Clearly, both genders embody a contradiction that cannot be resolved and poisons human relations. Any attempts at emancipation on the part of the female characters invariably end up self-destructive. So far so good.

    Then there’s Lily, who seems to offer an alternative. She’s comfortable in her body and seemingly immune to the hostile, high-pressure environment of the dance company. She breaks all the rules and yet is successful as a dancer. Even thought the character resides for the most part – or entirely? – in Nina’s head, she still represents a possibility. Lily shows Nina a way out, a chance to come into her own.

    Over time, though, Nina comes to see Lily as a threat – more than anything, a threat to her career. Because in the end, it’s still all about that perfect performance. Nina’s unable to step outside the world in which Swan Lake is considered the epitome of artistic achievement.

    And neither can the movie, which, in the end, is one of its biggest blind spots. In order for the allegory to work, the audience must accept that premise. Sorry.

  10. Natallia Stelmak

    It is dangerous to take the movie as a realistic comment on the ballet world, since as he points out, there is a real question about how much is real and how much is imagined. Though the director is obviously interested in the ballet world, he seems more interested in what is in Nina’s head, and she is an unreliable narrator if there ever was one. The filmmaker shots down the common stereotype of ballerinas as some kind of delicate, ethereal thing, with his focus on the brutal physical reality of what they have to go through to achieve that ethereal beauty. Is Thomas a predator? Maybe he is an instigator of inspiration in his dancers. And it is Nina, not Thomas, who is looking for perfection. Remember, he holds up Lily, who is imperfect, as a model for what Nina should learn from (even if it is imaginary). She is not oppressed by Thomas and if he were really a predator, why would he have sent her home without some attempt at seduction the night he brings her home? He is an artist whose material is his dancers, and he must work them the way they each must work their own bodies — and in Nina’s case, her soul as well. It is not about gender, but the relations between artists and their materials.

  11. Josef Horáček

    The movie most certainly addresses gender, Natallia. All the dancers that matter, including Nina’s mother, are female. The male dancers don’t ever speak – even when asked a direct question: “Would you fuck this girl?” – and are practically invisible. The choreographer, on the other hand, is male, which is frightfully significant, even if the allusions to his sexual exploits may be unfounded rumors. What coaching techniques does he use for the Prince? One thing is for certain, he doesn’t ever grab the Prince’s crotch. The best he can muster is ask him the above-mentioned question, which is mildly abusive toward the male dancer, but it’s really asked for Nina’s benefit. That he is so sure what the answer would be is another example of how rigid the gender roles in this movie are. Again, the movie does this intentionally, with a critical distance. (Or is that my wishful thinking?)

    Gender relations do play an enormous role in this movie, but I agree that other motifs are equally, if not more, important. I don’t think the movie is supposed to be a realistic portrayal of a dance company. It’s something I suggested in one of our previous conversations, more as a hypothetical alternative script. Black Swan is clearly an allegory – a coming-of-age story, if you will. And as you point out, it is also a story about art and what goes into producing art. For this reason, the setting is important. And for the allegory to work, the microcosmos in which the story unfolds must present itself as a complete world. Not that there can’t be breaches and contradictions, but it shouldn’t be possible to envision an outside that the story doesn’t take into account. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’ve been exposed to too much modern dance and contemporary art, but I kept thinking that all those people were funneling all their energy into this very stilted and sterile art form. If Thomas wanted his dancers to forgo absolute technical brilliance in favor of primal energy and unbridled expressiveness, then why did he insist on the limiting constraints of classical ballet? Sure, it may be an interesting challenge, but certainly not the only or necessarily the best option.

  12. black swan & pleasure | windmachine

    […] I’d been wanting to see Black Swan for a while. And I’ve been reading Montevidayo a lot and loving it,  and then I saw that M. Milks wrote something about The Wrestler and Black Swan and I wanted to be able to read it… so I went to the movie on Xmas eve with my brother. Then I came home and read the article. […]

  13. Natallia Stelmak

    Josef, it seems possible that the reason we don’t see how Thomas interacts with the male dancers is that we are seeing everything through Nina’s self-obsessed eyes, and she is not interested in how he interacts with male dancers. The other issue here is that male dancers, for the most part in contemporary ballet, play a lesser role than females, and the psychological drama in the ballet Thomas is choreographing is contained within the Swan Queen, not the male lead. You call ballet stilted and sterile, but it is a form which has thrived for hundreds of years, and there are many schools where technique is in fact secondary to the expression of emotion (Eifman, Vaganovna (sp?)). Thomas is clearly trying to push the limits of the form — perhaps think Berryman’s sonnets, where a strict traditional form is stretched, and the conflict between the formal rules and the emotions expressed creates a powerful energy.

    I still say that gender is not the issue in this movie. You yourself say it is not a realistic portrayal of the ballet world, so why should it be taken as a realistic statement on gender? It is about this young woman’s psychology, her striving for artistic perfection, and how she comes to embody the spirit of the black swan. Wanting it to be about gender is reducing it to bodiless generalities.

  14. Black Swan and Art - Montevidayo

    […] Johannes on Dec.27, 2010, under Uncategorized Thanks to Megan and her interesting post (and the ensuing comment discussion), Joyelle and I went to see The Black Swan yesterday. Needless […]

  15. Josef Horáček

    Your point is well taken, Natallia. The story is presented from Nina’s vantage point, and she indeed is an unreliable narrator. Come to think of it, it is entirely conceivable that Thomas’ sexual advances are part of her fantasies, along with much of what happens between her and Lily.

    I see a difference between classical and contemporary ballet, not to mention modern dance. I’m not an expert in dance by any means, but the ballet company in the movie appears to do classical ballet, despite what Thomas says about doing the Swan Lake differently this time. The one time Nina finds herself on the floor during a performance, for example, is when her partner drops her by accident.

    I can appreciate classical ballet for what it is – a highly stylized art form with emphasis on technique. There just appeared to be a disconnect in the movie between the effect that the choreographer wished to produce and the tools he chose to do it.

  16. megan

    natalia and josef — thanks for these comments. it looks like the convo has moved over to johannes’s post, but i just want to clarify that i did not/would not claim the film is “about” gender – though i am interested certainly and perhaps primarily in its approach to gender and (female) sexuality. thanks for raising these other issues.

  17. ng6820

    For me, one of the biggest parts of the film was not Nina’s transformation from the white swan into the black swan, but what it represented: Nina’s transformation from girl to woman. I didn’t see it suggesting that art needed to be erotic, but that sexuality is a large part of the completion of these transformations.

  18. Johannes

    I think you’re right: growing up means accepting a normal sexuality. But it seems to me she doesn’t grow up – unless by grow up you mean jabbing a mirror shard into your belly/crotch. And that stuntedness I think is art.


  19. Wounding the Viewer: Diane Arbus and Sylvia Plath - Montevidayo

    […] away from her sexually repressive marriage and to become a true Artist/Photographer. In other words, it followed exactly the trajectory Megan Milks though The Black Swan followed (and which I disagreed with): the woman needs to be fucked to become a good artist. And the reason […]

  20. Mutawa

    I think a lot about the problem of ending in narrative: of resisting transformation, epiphany, and instead producing a kind of strategic overdeterminism that kills off characters who are not fit to survive in a world that’s fucked. My own work is pretty fatalistic, deterministic, nihilistic – opening up lines of flight and then stubbornly tying them off, their outstretched fingers mercilessly amputated at the knuckle. But the world isn’t actually like that, or at least projects like It Gets Better declare that it isn’t, that there are viable life paths available. Which model of the world is more politically potent? By emphasizing the fact that the world is not made for certain people, as opposed to emphasizing the loopholes that only certain people will ever be able to find, we focus on what needs changing: the world, not the marginalized people who are unable to find their way in it. By emphasizing the loopholes, the resistances, we are sharing survival strategies.

    I agree with this. These characters do not have a sense of self-preservation that can at least save them from eventual destruction, as if their destiny is simply to die. I don’t understand this. There are no signs which show the characters are particularly alarmed of their self-destructive path, they rather plunge themselves into that hole without an ability to ever question or reassess their own lives. I think it probably makes sense with Nina, since this girl is reduced to a mere object of her world, but not with the Wrestler, who is in a more independent position to find an escape for himself.

    I think by only removing characters’ natural self-defense could it achieve the desired horror.

    Also why portraying Nina with such an excessive degree of innocence? It seems that the transition itself only takes a single continuum with innocence on one end and cunning, dangerous seduction and manipulation on the other? Would it be more interesting to create a multi-dimensional transformation, with a Nina with all sensibility yet eventually gives way to her decadence and loss of self-identity?

  21. Zoe

    the movie was about innocence, and sexuality, and the “impossibility” of having both at the same time … one the one hand it is a comment on the extremes pushed on on women (virgin whore complex) for it is impossible for a woman to be both.

    the movie appears to be about a girl-woman trying to have sexuality while retaining her innocence … what is innocence anyway, the film seems to ask. why is the instructor so interested in “corrupting” her. as though her transformation would be move “valid” or compelling than the other, more sexually-in touch dancer.

    in the end so-called innocence dominates unexpectedly … in the way it is fused with sexuality. we see this because of how the instructor blushes when Nina runs over to him and embraces him. A man like him, so forward, crass, dominating, feels shamed or embarrassed in some way or touched by this girl’s touch, while showing in his face a feeling of almost bliss.

    that reaction is not purely sexual. there is something in the power Nina has, that comes not from the allure of her body nor from her ability to finally embody her desire.

    i know this is what the movie is about, because also of the way the film is surprisingly affirmative of Nina’s feelings for that jerk. Never in the course of the film are we as the audience encouraged to “look down” on Nina for being so naive or -yes- innocent enough to have a little crush on a guy so transparently abusive and inappropriate. That is a matter that would be of concern or shame to a woman. But it is not what the movie is about. The movie is really about the feelings and needs of a girl. Which is why it is so unique as a movie.

    When I saw the movie I didn’t realize she had committed suicide. I saw the look of bliss on her face, and her saying, it was perfect, as her realization that she had indeed managed to be both the black swan and the white swan at the same time. but at the time, in her final performance, she did not know this, that she was still also the white swan (via not knowing about the death of her mirror image) … and that’s the whole point. she was innocent, even as she was sexual …

    because she did not “know” that she killed the white swan … and thus did not “know” that she was not innocent ..

    because she did not “know” that the killed white swan was really just a part of her … and thus that she was still innocent .. and was the white swan still

    I think it is a shame the story ends in suicide, but I think it fulfills the constraints of the allegory more than anything else. I also think that the whole question of innocence, and what it is, that is lost through sex, is relevant to someone of any gender.

  22. Zoe

    A “woman” in Nina’s situation, with Nina’s erotic feelings for her instructor, would probably either have repressed / rejected them … or acted on them “knowing” that they were sheerly carnal.

    When Nina runs to embrace the instructor after her performance, I felt a sense of triumph and resolution that surpassed the excellence of her performance or relief for its success.

    Her embrace is so loose, passionate, and … loving

    IMO, the movie is really about that moment.

  23. Mutawa

    I have watched five times this movie again, and try to eliminate the horror elements so I can see the character Nina in a better light. I start to feel her characters and the so-called triumph in the end of the film are clearly inconsistent. I don’t think innocence is what we are discussing here. It is her blandness, her hollowness and unbalance that signals irration.

    If someone here has ever read short stories or novels about genius vs madness theme, you can see that the trajectory to perfection of Nina is completely simplistic. One of these outstanding pieces of literature: The Unknown Masterpiece (Le Chef-d’œuvre inconnu) of Honore De Balzac shows us the destructive power of creativeness that the painter attempts to infuse into his last magnum opus turns into a disaster, disillusion and a petty failure, to the point that he commits suicide after burning all his works.

    The most important difference between Frenhofer, the mad artist in this short story and Nina is that he is certainly not hollow, much more passionate, much more creative, so much that it dirves him to madness. In Nina’s case, I have a feeling she is just a puppet being controlled by the surrounding world. You see many signs of brutal competition in the company, abusive methods of Vincent Cassel in order to incite jealousy in her, and finally the thirst for glory of her mother. Where is her own passion? Where is her creativity that can drive to madness like Frenhofer, I can’t see that. I am confident in saying that she has no chance to achieve any of such successes, according to her portrait in this movie.

    I would like to take another example, this time is a real artist who left his mark as one of the most influential musicians of our time, Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg is known for his creativity, but also for his notorious bizzard behaviours. He can be called in some ways, a mad genius. His life is a perfect demonstration of a destructive path.

    But sadly the path that Nina experiences in Black Swan is nowhere near to this. All I can see is so many redundant elements of horror.

    I would say this movie fails short from providing us an interesting interpretation to its central theme: Genius and Madness. Natalie Portman’s performance is skillful, but without a solid character clearly defined by screenwriter, I cannot say that her character is worthy to receive all of these praises. I indeed think she is (Nina) an abnormal, a painful example of an incompetent artist who is pressed to the point of madness.

    I believe the director has tried to focus on too many aspects: Madness and Genius, Sexual Repression, A Depart From Maturity,… This really makes the movie less consistent than it seems.

    Eventually, it is Nina, and no one else, who fails to feel the traditional hero’s position, that destroys the central theme of this movie.

    I still prefer the Wrestler for its simpler, down-to-earth plot, its admirable portrait of a human’s struggle and certain the end. Though I think instead of let Randy “The Ram” finishes his leap, Darren Aronofsky could let him freeze on screen.

  24. Mutawa

    Now to Zoe
    I think the central theme is still:

    —-Genius and Madness———
    It means that an artist must sacrifices himself to fulfill his role, to perfect his performance.

    Then it follows a reason:
    Nina is an innocent girl, that’s why she is a perfect for the White Swan, but she lacks a sense of sensuality, a sense of freedom, even a sense of evil to perfectly portraits the black swan.

    Therefore, she must be comfortable with sex, with desire, with all those elements that is not in her disposal.

    There begins her journey to the darker world

    Eventually she successes in achieving her goal but loses herself forever. She becomes the black swan…

    I don’t even understand what is all the scene of her having sex with her own self (Milas Kurnias), what does that mean? What does it signify? Homosexuality and the Black Swan does have some kind of correlation? I thought the Black Swan should seduce a prince, not a princess.

    I would say deep down Nina does have a sense of admiration to her talent instructor. The way she looks at him when he first enter the room, through the eyes of Natalie, is indeed an eye of an innocent girl looking at her teacher with affection. But I can’t say she really enjoys all those sexual “abuses” later caused by her instructor.

    In general, I can’t decipher the role of her imagined friend (Mila Kurnias). This self is just much more healthier than her, she will not be a great dancer as Nina, but she embodies all elements of being an interesting girl, an attractive girl. Yet in the end Nina stabs her with a piece of mirror, means she denies at all costs to be that girl, that perfect girl who can embody the black swan. And yet in the end she successes, and everyone applauds her performance. I don’t see any logic in this conclusion.

  25. Johannes

    If you look at the other posts about the Black Swan, we talk quite a bit about the homosexual element of the movie. This is indeed a key element of the movie: she doesn’t ultimately get fucked by the male director (as he prescribes!), but does have a (admittedly dream) sexual relation with her female double. Everything in this movie moves by doubling, by art.


  26. Mutawa

    A Last Note:
    If you are looking for a genius who falls to psychosis, paranoia such those mental disorders, I believe the perfect character is Nina’s instructor. Vincent Cassel can indeed portrait such a man who is very talented, who has a lot of ambitions to finally revolutionize the world of art, who can create a true magnum-opus. Of course, he cannot play Swan Lake and the movie should change its title then.


  27. Mutawa

    Yes, but I have difficulty in understanding what does this homosexual intercourse means to the process of transformation from the White Swan to the Black Swan. With a clearly defined definition given by Thomas, the Black Swan must be interpreted as a figure of evil, of sensuality and of wilderness, everything that fills the emptiness of the White Swan in order to attract the prince. But what does the scene of having sex with her doppelgangers really has anything to do with this? Please don’t take it wrong since I have no problem with homosexuality, I just can’t get it when she has sex with her imagined friend, then it is her imagined friend who denies her presence last night. I fail to see any fruitful contribution of this to the general scheme of the movie.

    Isn’t it more meaningful for her to experience sex or has a dream of sex with someone like a male partner, or even her instructor Thomas? If this is truly a story of coming-of-age, then why she must have sex with her doppelganger instead of her teacher? And why such an act of intercourse will signify the next step to her transformation? Having sex with her own self means she is mature enough about sexuality, about the art of seduction?

    It is clear to me that the director is trying to communicate with the audience via too many channels, thus leaving the movie in a state of confusion.

  28. Johannes

    No I think that’s precisely it: It’s not a coming of age story (at least not in a traditional sense). She doesn’t “mature,” she rejects all that BS.


  29. Mutawa

    Again this shows just how illogical the conclusion of the movie is in all senses, that’s my final judgment.

    Almost all stories involved in madness of creativity in Western literature usually adheres to a tragic failure of the artist, including a total destruction of his material. This movie, however, depicts an opposite image and yet does not content enough arguments to support its stand. This is the weakness of Black Swan.

  30. Johannes

    That’s what makes it good; it’s not conventional; it doesn’t give in to that normative idea of art/maturation.


  31. Mutawa

    Yes I see your point, and there is no problem with an artist to come up with an opposite interpretation, but with so many inherent problems of logic and coherence, one can doubt how such a movie can be called good? The problem I have listed does not include Ballet techniques and interpretation and psychological inaccuracies.