In "Black Swan" Natalie Portman

Plays Nina, a young ballerina whose stress level goes up under the pressure to perform .The film begins as a dream she is having of her dancing the White Swan.

A role she so desperately wants to dance in the “Swan Lake”. But, the catch is she not only has to dance as the White Swan, but also the black swan; Odile. Odile, is the white swans evil twin that nina just isn’t right for due to the fact she is more like the White Swan. She is said to be too nice, her teacher would describe her as “A frigid little girl.” This means she is unable or unwilling to be sexually aroused and responsive.

Throughout the movie we see Nina lose herself, In the film, Nina seems to have Paranoid Schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and Dissociative identity disorder. She ultimately experiences a “first-break” psychosis, or what you may also call“first episode psychosis.” The term “Psychosis” refers to experiencing a break from reality.

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Some psychotic symptoms can include auditory hallucinations such as; hearing voices or noises that are not really there, also visual hallucinations (seeing something that is not currently happening), grossly disorganized behavior, or negative symptoms (a flattening of one’s range of emotions, very little speech, and very limited desire to do anything). Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder which is portrayed by a variety of symptoms, this includes delusions, hallucinations, speech disorganization or behavior, and cognitive impairment.

The early onset of the disease schizophrenia with its continuing course, can make this a disabling disorder for many patients and their families.

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Another disorder Nina seems to have is Dissociative Identity disorder, this is usually called multiple personalities disorder or also split personality. This disorder is distinguished by the presence of at least 2 distinct personalities within the same person. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a serious personality disorder that limits their abilities to function in everyday life; two or more separate identities, or personalities, are present and alternately control an individual. DID is a disorder characterized by identity fragmentation rather than a proliferation of separate personalities, and for thousands of people this nightmare is a reality.

Below I have listed the examples of Dissociative Identity disorder from the film The Black Swan. After Nina is rejected by her Teacher for the role of the Swan Queen, she goes to see him. Her teacher, who is known as Thomas comes on to her and kisses her. She reacts by biting his tongue and suddenly something in her is triggered. In the film, Nina experiences a break with reality, the hallmark feature of psychotic illness. Both she and the viewer question what is real and what is not real. She exhibits paranoid delusions (fixed, false beliefs) that Lily is malevolently trying to replace her. Additionally, while it is clear that in the nightclub scene Nina uses the drug ecstasy, it is unclear whether the drug or her underlying mental illness causes her to hear her name being called.

Although less commonly experienced than auditory hallucinations, visual and tactile (sensory) hallucinations are shown through the use of captivating cinematography. For example, Nina scratches at the skin on her shoulders throughout the course of the film and ultimately breaks her skin, revealing black feathers. These events demonstrate her misperceptions that the feathers were present (visual hallucinations) and were itching her skin (tactile hallucinations). Also, Nina sees scales form on her skin and her neck elongate like that of a swan. These depictions of psychotic symptoms are cleverly employed in Nina’s literal and figurative transformation into the “Black Swan.”

In addition to psychosis, the film depicts several other aspects of psychiatric conditions. The film shows Nina’s anxiety, as evidenced by her skin-picking and scratching. Nina’s obsessive traits are highlighted while she desperately seeks perfection as the lead in the ballet. Symptoms of an eating disorder are also alluded to, likely a reference to Nina’s further efforts to achieve “perfection” in the way she believes she appears. Additionally, the competition and dynamic between mother and daughter hints at internal pressures felt by Nina that can sometimes fuel an eating disorder.

Cite this page

In "Black Swan" Natalie Portman. (2022, Jan 08). Retrieved from

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