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Black Swan movie analysis

Posted by DreamSharer on February 19, 2012

“Black Swan” is an intense psychological thriller and a psycho-drama taking place in the competitive world of ballet. It basically describes a ballet dancer’s metamorphosis into the “Black Swan,” her emotions and her transformation as she gets more into character. Behind the movie’s thriller and psychologically disturbing facade lies a profound and genuine story of the cost of fame, the sacrifice of artists and the hidden forces behind the shady world of high-stakes entertainment. I will be talking mainly about the movie’s occult symbolism and its themes relating to the dark side of the film and show business.

Black Swan was directed by Darren Aronofsky, and it basically follows the struggle of a shy ballet dancer Nina as she travels along her path to success in a world of demanding expectations of professional ballet. Black Swan tells of the world in which Nina evolves and the obstacles she must endure.

This Golden-Globe nominated film takes the viewers deep into the ballerina’s descent into madness in a frightening portrait of psychosis, which doctors and specialists claim that it resonates realism.

Nina Sayers is a fragile and repressed ballerina. This role is played by Natalie Portman who through Nina strives for the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” which is a role that will require her to play both the gentle white and the seductive black swans.

In the process of perfecting the role, Nina goes through shedding her “sweet girl” persona and embracing her darker side in order to fully comprehend and take the veil off the role of the Black Swan and in order to please her demanding and sexually aggressive director.

Her metamorphosis transforms into completion, that Nina eventually develops webbed feet, bird-like legs and sprouts feathers and wings while actually becoming the black swan.

Nina, who strives constantly for perfection to please her controlling mother Erica, played by Barbara Hershey, lives with her mother who gave up ballet dancing in order to have her daughter.

Going through visual hallucinations, Nina starts seeing a black-clad version of herself across the subway platform and again in the maze of hallways. Even the pink stuffed animals in her bedroom start to come alive and mock her in her visions.

She conjures up an array of fantasies and delusions.

Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality that usually includes false beliefs or delusions, and seeing or hearing things that are not there.

Like a fever, psychosis is a symptom rather than a disease, and can be caused by a variety of triggers: exposure to mercury, drugs like amphetamines, epilepsy, a brain tumor, dementia or psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

Psychosis Usually Involves Auditory Hallucinations, however unless psychosis was due to neurological causes, patients normally have auditory, rather than visual hallucinations.

The film took showed Nina suffering from symptoms of anxiety disorders, anorexia, bulimia, cutting and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

There are numerous ways to interpret the plot of the movie, however, through use of meanings and symbols, the movie clearly alludes to many issues of the dark and occult side of fame, duality, trauma-based mind control, the forced creation of an alter persona and more. The main character, Nina, goes through a metaphysical change – by getting in touch with her “dark side” – in order to become a better performer. The movie uses subtle references to trauma-based mind control to explain the creation of an independent alter-person in Nina’s psyche.

Although Black Swan is fiction, it explores hidden realities of high-stakes art and performance. There are numerous examples of artists who have embraced darker alter egos to take their art to “another level” … and many who ultimately were consumed by them, Heath Ledger for example.

Black Swan is a modern retelling of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, Swan Lake.

Since the shy and fragile young Nina was to play the role of the Swan Queen, she must therefore embody both the pure White Swan and the evil Black Swan. Her quest for perfection as a ballet dancer led her to experience, in her everyday life, the transformation experienced by the White Swan in the ballet’s story. In other words, she was living her ballet character in real life. The events of Nina’s daily life mirrored the story of the character she represented as a ballet dancer, ultimately leading her to confusion and to insanity as the line between reality and fiction blurs.

To me, the constant use of mirrors and reflections in numerous scenes of the movie were a constant reminder of Nina’s altered perception of reality. However, I found that mirrors in the movie were misleading and Nina’s reflections had a “life of their own”. As Nina is haunted by the Black Swan, her alternate persona takes a life of its own and acts outside of Nina’s conscious control.

Trauma-based mind control – also known as Monarch Programming – is the process in which an individual is subjected to intense trauma and dehumanization in order to cause a mental dissociation. This causes a fragmentation of the slave’s personality and enables the handler to create an alternate persona that can be programmed at will. Some researchers claim there are occult elements at work in this process.

Nina’s mother, was more as a mind-controller than a mother. She has boundary issues and keeps tight control over all aspects of Nina’s life. Real-life Monarch slaves start their difficult lives as victims of ritual abuse in their own household. Symbols relating to mind control in Nina’s house reflect this tragic reality through her pink childlike bedroom.

Nina’s mother has subjected her daughter to trauma-based mind control and and psychological as well as emotional manipulation in order to make her a submissive woman who will be able to realize her mother’s dreams. Unfortunately, this trained Nina to disassociate in order to make her existence tolerable and bearable, which in turn made Nina the perfect subject for the creation of a dark alter persona: the Black Swan.

In order to obtain perfection,or to accomplish the Great Work, Nina must master both good and evil – light and darkness. The occult concept of duality becomes extremely significant.

To achieve performance perfection, Thomas’ job was to create in a New Nina, a new agressive and sexual alter-ego inside her. From thereon, he becomes Nina’s new mind-controller.

As the Black Swan grows in power, Nina starts hallucinating physical mutations on her body. The only other person that can see these mutations are Nina’s mother probably because as a former ballet dancer she went through a similar experience. She is aware of Nina’s gradual transformation and she tries to repress it, because she knows her new identity will cause the loss of her “little angel girl”.

This situation reflects the ugly truth behind real-life emotional abuse. Children, who are already dissociative due to their parent’s abuse, are more prone to live with conflicting persona. In this case, Nina was handed over to the entertainment world to create in her an alter persona destined to be a world-renowned star.

Also, we witness in the movie, Beth’s fate as a ballet dancer who reaches her “shelf life”. We witness the tragic and sad instances where Beth tries to kill herself. We see her hostility and we can feel her emotions as she feels like her life ended. Sadly, there are many real life cases of celebrities suffering the same fate. After being recruited, programmed and primed by the industry to become a superstar, they are suddenly dropped and forgotten about because they got too old for the ‘role’ or the ‘performance’. They become psychologically damaged, they experience loss of purpose, loss of motivation and not knowing who they really are, so finally the fallen stars sink into depression, drugs, alcoholism and even suicide.

The color black representation in the movie portray the darker side of Nina taking over her. For example, the black wings on the back of Lily (played by Mila Kunis) while she is “giving pleasure” to Nina, those black wings represent the “dark force” that is communing with Nina. It is sinking deeper in her and taking over her life.

As her metamorphosis advances, Nina realizes that a totally separate entity, another person is living within her. It is completely acting outside of her control. If we take the mind-control symbolism and theory and dissect it to understand the director’s message, mirror reflections represent a slave’s alter-persona that is programmed and manipulated by controllers or abusers.

Consider this, right before her big performance as the Black Swan, Nina fights against herself in her dressing room. During the fight between Nina and the Black Swan, a mirror breaks. That breaking of the mirror represents the collapse of the psychological boundary separating both entities or persona. By shattering the mirror, Nina becomes the Black Swan and this is a symbol that both entities merge into one and the more powerful of both persona takes control of Nina’s body.

At the show’s premiere, Nina gives a wonderful one of a kind performance. She successfully plays the sweet and shy pure White Swan, and, when the time came, she was overtaken by the “force” to become the twisted, yet thrilling, Black Swan. By marrying the white and the black together, the good and the evil, the light and the dark, Nina has accomplished the alchemical Great Work, the occult path to illumination (illuminating one of the two conflicting forces).

But the sad truth is, although it was a necessity for the performance to succeed, the process of living the characters consumed her. By allowing the Black Swan to completely possess her, Nina gave the performance of a lifetime, but she has become a different person. Thomas and the audiences are in love with Nina as the Black Swan just as in the ballet the prince falls in love with the White Swan’s evil twin. But the black Nina is not the “real” Nina. The Black Swan was a destructive force that Nina could not live with. It was tormenting her on a physical and psychological level. She was not able to go on because of the alter persona. Thus, the only way Nina could free herself, was by killing herself.

Nina finally attained perfection. Her last words were: “I was perfect”.

Black Swan is a profound movie, which can be interpreted on many levels. I personally looked at it from the shady world of show business and media point of view.

I think that through Nina’s metamorphosis and transition from a shy nobody to a possessed and shining superstar, the viewers experience the dark and evil side of entertainment. Mind control, manipulation and immorality collide with success and recognition. Dark impulses, addictions and self-destruction arise with artistic genius and creative brilliance. Those who are “running the show” don’t give a damn about the emotions of the performer they are just experts on how to bring the Black Swan out of upcoming excellent artists … and they know very well it will destroy them in the long run but they don’t care one bit. And they are OK with the destruction of the performer as long as they get their perfect performance.

  1. panic attack Said,

    I could definitely see your skills in the article you write.
    The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you are who are not afraid to say what they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  2. Mel Said,

    Actually it`s got nothing to do with any kind of black swan. Maybe for the director it does, but in a cultural bedridden snobbish world this would be referred to as a rendition of Saint-Saens`s Le carnaval des animaux, which originally features a piece about a swan dying and serves as leitmotif for a classic Russian ballet entitled The Dying Swan.

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