Black Swan tells a story of a solitary ballet dancer who succumbs to extreme pressure and her own desire to succeed that leads to her fall into madness. This film epitomises art with its strong expressionist style; a distinctly dramatic expressionism that consists of contrasted hard an soft light, special shooting angles and nuanced sequences of cuts between shots. Black Swan represents the reality of a subjective world to show the inner world of the characters, which proves to be an unusually clear and thorough exploration. That’s why this film is a brilliant masterpiece.
The film depicts characterisation vividly as any novel I have read. Nina is a ballet dancer who plays the white swan and the black swan. Her coach, Thomas, said Nina is beautiful, innocent, timid and weak. Indeed, the twenty eight year old Nina finds that her mind has been totally imprisoned within two very controlling spaces: the theatre and her home. The lack of her own identity and will power means that she is guided, in her two-dimensional world, by either her mother or Thomas. This life only enters into a complex three-dimensional realm when the audience is shown her inner turmoil.
Nina’s mother and Thomas have some points in common: they both have the strong desire to control her and always hope that Nina’s development and progress would follow their own way of thinking. This extreme behaviour is very dangerous for a person’s development as this unnatural state can twist a personality subjected to such pressure.
In “Requiem For a Dream”, Darren Aronofsky investigates the addiction to, and desire for, the dark side of social responsibility and commitment through the visual depiction of Nina’s spiritual state as a psychedelic phenomenon. Black Swan describes the spiritual journey of beautiful and delicate ballet dancer who collapses under the combined weight of desire and social pressure.
At the beginning of the film, the dream sequence portrays Nina’s original desire. Then, when she pursues that dream, the process raises many unexpected situations that build up the pressure that comes from many different directions and ends in her descent into schizophrenia. Finally, because her mother, Thomas and Lily have given her a distinctly “unfair education and influence” Nina’s life becomes one long-term contradiction that is represented by her split personality.
The film is an arrangement of excellent camera work including the extensive use of hand-held camera shots. At the end of film, the fancy and various camera skills collaborate with the music from ‘Swan Lake’ to produce a succession of climaxes that highlights the plot’s slow then suddenly fast-paced rhythm. The natural, smooth lens splicing creates a strange yet beautiful atmosphere. This gives the audience the feeling of suffocation, which drove me crazy or gave me the creeps I’m not sure which. The way this film evoked emotion from me labels it as art in my book.
The film is just over a hundred minutes long, concise and fluent. There is no unnecessary clips or flashbacks. In other words, Black Swan is a perfect masterpiece of technical artistry. In my opinion, Darren Aronofsky’s film belongs to typical expressionism. He skilfully uses the symbolic roles of the white swan and black swan; the dark, strange atmosphere created by rendering such imagery and a lot of close-ups of the visual manifestations of the characters’ mental activities to explore a psychological world and express a new social reality. Art communicates ideas with skill and finesse in order to instil a message to the audience and therefore, by using Black Swan as an example, I would argue that film is art.