Black swan is a psychological thriller based around ballet, this give off a slight uneasiness as death, blood and gore and three things you wouldn’t usually associate with ballet. Generally because it’s a movie about ballet and dancing then only women and the occasional man getting forced to watch it by his girlfriend would see this movie. The psychological thriller aspect of this movie appeals to a number of people with it being a hybrid genre, so not just women but for young male adults.
The film was realised in January 2011 and won a BAFTA award for best actress. The first thing we see is a black room with a spotlight of a dancer just off the centre of the screen with the voice over stating “I had a dream last night about a girl who was turned into a swan, and her prince falls for the wrong girl, and she kills herself”. This can be linked with Levi-Strauss’ theory of opposites with the black room possibly representing the Black Swan surrounding here or trapping here but she is still the white.
An establishing shot of the ballet room the film places much emphasis on gives us an idea of where the film is based, with lots of dancers practising together in a dark room – the walls and floor are all black. This colour is of key focus to the shot, this might represents the darkness of her state of mind throughout the movie and the fact she will always be left in the dark. The genre just like Nina’s (Natalie Portman) state of mind is unclear and not one thing. It is a hybrid. A drama and a psychological thriller.
Throughout the film the audience finds it hard to pin point what is actually going on, we don’t know what is real and what is in Nina’s head. The movie is based on the Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, a very elegant and graceful ballet but Black Swan is the total opposite which also links to Levi- Strauss’ narrative theory. The black swan and white swan characters are exaggerated by the use of the colours black and white as those colours are often used in thrillers and are colours described as a code and conventions often giving the movie a sinister feel.
With this movie being a dance based movie, there is a range of camera angles and quick cuts often creating the anticipated and unexpected moments. The use of music and wild tracks were also used to the movies advantage as there was a lot of tension and suspense create. The thriller was really created in the mind of Nina so we see the movie through her eyes which is a symbolic code and action code to keep watching the action unfold through the protagonist or antagonist eyes which brings that tension and exciting factor.
This can be linked with Propp’s narrative theory of characters with Nina being both the hero and the villain to herself. We are introduced to a broke ballerina toy, this could represent her childhood or even her relationship with her mother being broken which is indicated when we hear her mum say “what ever happened to my sweet girl…” This can be linked in with the possessiveness for her mother and Nina’s life is getting lived by her mother- both of them wearing their hair in a bun can represent this.
The protagonist in a thriller just like in a tragedy is generally in danger at every turn, with the most danger coming in the final confrontation with the antagonist; this can be linked to Todorov’s theory of equilibrium, although Black Swan actually goes totally against it and has dis-equilibrium all the way through the movie. In this case interestingly enough the protagonist and antagonist is the same person which in result ends with the young ballet killing herself after she performed and became both Black and White Swan and become “perfect”.
Courtney from Study Moose