Black Swan - Who Are You?

Thoughts On: Black Swan

Another Aronofsky masterpiece that I'll be looking at. Obviously a brilliant film-maker, my favourite film of his being Requiem For A Dream. I'll definitely be looking at that in the future, but if you want to see it soon, comment below, or recommend me any film for that matter. Anyway, this is about Nina, a ballerina aspiring to become the best in her dance corp and take on the role of both the black and white swan in the up and coming production of Swan Lake.

This film is very clearly about identity, about splitting yourself into two shades: black and white. What the film most poignantly asks is, who are you? And, who is in control of that idea? Now, from here I could spin into ideas of social contortion, labelling and general moaning. But. I'm not going to. I am going to talk about the idea of this social conditioning though, but not in those terms. I'll also be talking about control, a theme I quite like. Control is of course just an idea. When you question why things happen, you could easily spiral into unfathomable and cyclic questioning. This is because why can be asked repeatedly, forever--just ask any five year old. What 'why?' has to do with control is a search for a source, for a centrifugal focal point, the epicentre of the big bang, the knot in your back that's just ruining your life, the reason why Melissa is so goddamn moody with you today. Who is Melissa? Well, beyond the joke she's hormonal and annoying. But, of course she's not, she's just in a bad mood. But her mood defines her. We define her. Who she is, is clearly not under her complete control. The source of who she is... well... where is it? This is where 'why?' comes into play. Why is Melissa in a bad mood? She might say that's how she woke up, or that traffic sucks and work is pointless. The good willed, but slightly offensive, comedian/observer within us all might say she's on her period. Ohhh, I can hear some of you cringe and moan from here--not that people always make a noise when they cringe--but, I'm merely transitioning back to the idea of social conditioning. Language. An invention used to make the world interpretable and communication feasible. What it does is take ideas and then labels them. A clump of atoms becomes a chair, person, guitar, cup, I could go on forever. The idea extends to mood and, to dip into some basic first year psychology, the idea is connected to everything you know. It's called attribution. Everything you know is linked to others that form a vast network called the mind and perception--but I needn't explain the concept. You see a moody woman and the stereotype easily conjured is menstrual problems.

What has this got to do with Black Swan? In a convoluted sense, everything. Nina has her fa├žade: the prima ballerina; innocent woman; Natalie Portman; weakness in her femininity; strength in the fact that she's a ballerina and... eww... that bone crunching routine. There's an awful lot you can say. But should you? Now, there's a bit up there some people may have issue with, I know that and it was planned: 'weakness in her femininity'. This is the struggle of the film. Nina is mummy's girl, the perfect little princess, the embodiment of naivety and feminine... how do I say this?... grace? She's clearly shaped by her mother in this sense, I mean just look at the myriad of stuffed animals in her room. The idea of her being this fragile feather is what the film so easily presents because it's what we want to see. I push that this is not the way she wants to be seen. Her goal in life is to be a great dancer. Maybe she was pushed onto this path, but she's set in  and running, and as shown when she's confronted by the idea of being the black swan, she's only floaty, innocent and stereotypically Natalie Portman because that helps her push forward toward the ultimate goal of a prime prima ballerina. Through the film, this pursuit to become the black swan, she must prove she is the opposite to what she's seen as: the white swan. And so, she becomes sexually devious, embracing ideas of... well, you've seen the film, pictures work better than words here. Here's the good girl turned bad story Sandy staying out 'til 10 O'Clock to wearing tight leathers and smoking like a badass with inevitable lung disease to come. But, Black Swan is a bit more than that...

Black Swan is the good girl embracing the bad not becoming it. What the film, for poor Nina, needed to be called was: The Grey Swan. The ideal would have been for her to find a balance between the white and black swan. Unfortunately, that's not how the world likes to work. A rock is a rock. No one gives a damn about sedimentary, chalk, igneous and oh I'm bored Googleing this stuff already. The dance corp doesn't want the grey swan, it wants the black and white swan represented by one single entity. This sounds like an Eddy Murphy movie, a slightly racist one, one I, without shame, would like to see. But what it really is comes from a simple truth: shades of grey are boring. Give us blinding bold colours or just give it to us black and white. And so, in comes social contortion again. The movie demonstrates who we are is who are seen to be. Nina is the white swan, never the black swan until she can prove otherwise. I think this is a very common thing in living--and it's not a bad one--I wouldn't dare call what is natural, and really just what is, wrong. People love the idea of change, everyone wants their own personal world full of clones of themselves. I do, you do, so does your mum--I could argue that's why she had you, but you might take offence. Apologies if I did (not really, I take that back (but it's in brackets so...(imagine it's whispered))). Anyhow, the film makes a key observation of the effect of reality on a mind being torn in two directions. Oh! I really want to talk about The Shining here--another time--it'll be a good one, I promise. Again, anyhow, we are the only ones who see the shades of grey within ourselves. We are the only ones who have the time, patience and capacity for self-loathing for this. Nina, being unable to fully handle the black and white swan being trapped within her is her being unable to make the switch from black and white to IMAX, colour, 3D, bold craziness. The metaphor makes a jump, but you got it, right? In short, she can't just be  this or that. She's a 'me'.

Here's the film in its essence, here's also a little idea that helps me in life sometimes. Everytime your asked, who are you? You say, I'm Steve, I work in accounting, I have a wife, two kids and pay taxes. Easy. You get to sit down and the 'getting to know you' segment of the obligatory seminar grinds on... and on... and on... We love to tell ourselves this too though. I stand before the mirror and I see, Daniel. Just as Nina sees, Nina. Though these are the words we use to present ourselves, or the idea of what we think we are, no one has the same connotations or sees the same person we do. I look in the mirror and I see a writer, (insert shameless promotion) but I also see the guy who used to be afraid of dogs, the dark, horror movies. I also see the only guy who knows what I look like in my darkest of moments, bent over a small screen, putting too much effort into rubbing out a bit of self-satisfaction. Too personal. I know. But that's the point. Everyone has those 'dark moments'. They are apart of our every day, but we don't have the imagination to see them in others simply because the moments are 'dark'. We don't know exactly what they look like. With a bit of imagination you could get a good picture, but no one wants to, or is supposed to, think of what their mum looks like naked. Yet, you just did. Just like you just imagined what I look like masturbating vigorously at 3 O'clock in the morning in my dark and dank room. If you didn't well, now you've got a better picture. Your welcome. Here are our internal and external worlds. There are nearly 7 billion other worlds you can't comprehend, but 1 that you do. However, the worlds aren't imperturbable. The shape one another, leaving a simply question of control, why and who am I?

I daren't summarize by telling you that you are who you want to be or feed you notions of complete self-determination. For that, I advise you take a peep at a few 13 year old girl Twitter feeds. Here we go again, more stereotypes. For the purpose of a joke, but still, the world is so easily viewed in simple terms, bold colours, black and white, whatever you want--just be able to explain it to me like I'm a 7 year old. One of my favourite Denzel Washington quotes, though I love the Godzilla one, my favourite's got to be 'you hear me, but you ain't listening'. Great man, or at least, he can deliver great lines, or--off point. In the end, the film presents an idea that black and white doesn't always help. It's there, and it needs to be embraced, but maybe we shouldn't let it consume ourselves.

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