Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Mark Heyman, John J. McLaughlin and Andres Heinz based on a story by Andres Heinz
I first saw this movie with Bryn and Sophie at the Embassy in Wellington. We all got beers to drink in the movie, and I remember Bryn being so tense during it that he kept leaving to buy more beers from the bar, and that after the movie finished we all went to another bar, shared a jug or two and discussed the movie. I haven’t watched it again since then and I’ve half been putting it off, but watching it again now I feel this incredible love for it.
My family was a bit of a ballet family because my sister had so much passion, has so much passion for the dance. I did ballet for one year and I didn’t love it. My sister did it for years and years, passing exams and being in shows. I remember going to see her perform in the Nutcracker ballet. Although I didn’t love to do ballet, I have always loved to watch it. Some of my sick day go to movies are things like Centre Stage and First Position, where I get to watch ballet bodies move. Black Swan is a fantastically dark movie, but it does still have the gorgeous bodies in motion and the attention to dance.
Basically I ❤ prepping ballet shoes, feet dancing shots, class sequences.
What makes this movie the most uncomfortable to me? The body horror aspects, with the blood and the things coming out of her skin, and the relationship Nina and Erica share. The stage mother taken to a horrifyingly controlling level, touching Nina’s body and of course, the surprise reveal in the bedroom. That’s like… everyone’s worst nightmare right? To have your incredibly intimate moment witnessed. Even if she was asleep… that’ll jerk you out of the moment. Holy crap the cringe. Especially as it happens so fast after the clipping of the nails when you just know Erica’s going to cut Nina.
Oh hey, baby Sebastian Stan being all drunk and cute.
Here’s a thing: Nina is pretty clearly a repressed lesbian. She’s had boyfriends, but she says there was no one special. She makes out with Thomas, even seems into it when he touches her, but as soon as she gets drunk she moves towards Lily, rubbing her cheek on her and more or less going in for a kiss. When she finally gets off, it’s imagining that Lily is going down on her. I remember the lesbian love scene being a huge thing at the time, and it is pretty awesome to see, but it sucks that it’s all hallucinations and madness rather than a thing that happened. You could pretty easily say that Nina’s obsession with perfection in part stems from her need to hide this part of herself, even from herself. She does also imagine herself as her lover, and her double goes to smother her at the end of the love scene so you can pretty easily say that there’s a few other issues going on there too.
Does it make me love the people? I'm not sure it's possible to get this close psychologically to a vulnerable and broken character without loving them. You can absolutely understand how the stresses on her are seated, how the pressure she builds within herself seems justified to her. The pursuit of artistic perfection and how that damages a person. I do love Lily as well, because Mila Kunis is so charismatic and natural to watch on screen.
Bechdel test: Yes, Erica and Nina speak in the first post prologue sequence, about food, about the future for Nina, about Nina's body. This is a film made with a lot of amazing women and very much centred around Nina.
Thomas Leroy: In four years I’ve watched you dance, I’ve seen you get obsessed, getting each and every move right but I've never seen you lose yourself.
State of Mind: I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this movie on the rewatch. Knowing what was about to happen certainly helped, the shock factor was reduced, and it was easier to differentiate between which bits were happening and which were hallucinations. Being right there on stage with Nina is an exhilerating experience, and I think I’ll definitely be watching this movie again. It wasn’t as hard as I remember it being. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis are completely excellent in this movie, it’s genius to watch.