Double Identity in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan

Year: 2010
Director: Darren Aronofsky

If you like movie thrillers, get your hands on the Darren Aronofsky classic, “Black Swan”. It has a rare mix of horror and humor, going beyond what people usually expect from a dark drama these days. This sensational masterpiece goes deep into the private lives of ballet dancers and reveals the painstaking work they do in order to succeed in their profession.

Starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, this film changes people’s minds about what it means to be good and what it means to be bad. Nina Sayers (Portman) struggles to get the part of The Swan Queen, and when she finally gets it, she goes on a self-discovering journey to find her true self. She starts off in the film being the innocent victim that everyone pities, but she later becomes the object of everyone’s hatred.

From being a good, obeying daughter to being a snotty little brat, Nina takes on a complete identity change when she meets a girl named Lily, played by Kunis. Interestingly, these two girls bond and form an odd relationship. At first, they were competing for the same lead role in the Swan Lake number. But after Nina gets it, she starts to think that Lily is trying to take the title away from her. She goes through many traumatic experiences like seeing her double image in the mirror and on the subway. Her brain plays with her emotions a lot throughout the film and it’s almost like someone is watching her. After she realizes Lily could become her replacement for the Black Swan, she goes on a quest to change from a good ballerina into an evil ballerina. Her identity crisis later takes on a toll on her and she tries to clear her head from all her mind tricks.

She loses her ground and goes in a downhill spiral when she agrees to go with Lily to a rave, where she drinks too much and comes home late. She later fantasizes having erotic dreams with the girl she barely even knows, and soon realizes how much she’s lost her sanity. From practicing everyday to enjoying some drinks with her friends, she learns the beauty of letting go. Her mindset on dancing and on life in general changes when she stops playing the “good girl” and mistreats her own mother. It seems like the whole movie was a dance performance, moving from one extreme event to another.

Nina finds herself lost in oblivion when she begins having nightmares of herself committing acts of felony. She becomes less and less like herself and she metaphorically turns into a swan herself. From the very beginning of the movie, she has a rash on her back that never seems to go away. Instead, it becomes worse and worse, until it grows into spikes (the same spikes that grow on a swan) and covers her fingers and toes.

The more she scratches it, the more it grows, and when she finally goes to her dance number for Swan Lake, she literally transforms from a virtuous white swan into a conniving black swan who seemingly kills her dance rival, Lily, to do the part of the Black Swan justice. When she finishes her number, the audience is left curious to find out what will happen to her next. And the most unthinkable thing happens–she finds out that the person she tried to defeat–the person she thought she stabbed with a piece of glass mirror–was herself.

This final climax leads us to the conclusion of the film, and that is no matter how hard you try to get what you want, it always ends up costing you in way or another. And in this case, Nina tried too hard to be perfect that she literally killed herself just to be the Black Swan. And indeed, she did master it.

All I can say that after watching this film, I was left with goosebumps and I couldn’t make myself sleep during the night.

Photo by Khoa Võ via Pexels

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