Black Swan is director Darren Aronofsky’s homage to the ballet world. Yes, the film is beautiful to look at, but to me, it came off as a sad look at a young woman so dedicated to her craft that in the end that obsession ate away at her and made her lose her grasp which in turn led to tragic consequences.
The movie tells the story of a Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman), a ballerina, who gets the role of a career — dancing the lead in Swan Lake. She’s in her mid 20s but is stunted — in both mind and body. She’s a girl in a woman’s body. She sleeps in her childhood bed surrounded by all her pink stuffed animals and is cared for by an overprotective mother (Barbara Hershey) who gave up her own ballet career to have her daughter. Nina is of course thrilled to have the part of a lifetime but it becomes clear very quickly that while she is technically excellent she can’t handle the emotional side of the role. She pushes her body and her mind to places where neither is comfortable and they fight her back — especially her mind. And she starts hallucinating. Throughout the last half of the movie you can’t tell what’s real and what’s in her mind including the much written about sex scene with rival ballerina Lily played by Mila Kunis.
Portman is beautiful in the role. She looks like a ballet dancer through and through. She pushed herself very hard for a year to get into “ballet shape” losing 20 pounds. She’s gone on every talk show saying how she didn’t eat and people are falling over themselves praising her for her dedication and commitment. Sure, it’s great to show her dedication and we all remember how several high profile men have lost (and gained weight) for parts and then in turn garnered awards and recognition. Robert DeNiro for Raging Bull, Tom Hanks for Philadelphia and Castaway, Christian Bale for The Machinist and American Psycho.
But here’s a young woman who is being praised nonstop for revealing that she stopped eating and even though it is a movie it gives the amount of praise that is being heaped on her gives me pause. She was pretty skinny to begin with and probably could have been fine without going without food. I just hope that young girls out there don’t look at Portman’s weight loss and dedication and see it as something to attain. It’s not that guys need to lose weight to become a serial killer or a person stranded on a desert island. Girls already have issues with wanting to be perfect which is what Nina reiterates over and over in the film stating: “I just want it to be perfect.” Perfection is impossible as the movie ultimately shows.
Maybe if she actually ever ate any food the character wouldn’t have been hallucinating in the first place. I found the scene where her mother bought her a cake to celebrate her role mean because her mother knew that she couldn’t eat it, yet she is made to feel bad that she pushes it away. If you want her to be the perfect ballerina don’t shove a cake in her face. Geez. The moral of this story is eat some protein so your brain has enough energy to ward off the demons that set in as you are are starving yourself to attain the unattainable — perfection.