Theater Masks

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Black Swan

If you haven't seen the movie, be warned, here there be spoilers.

I'll get this out of the way right from the start. Caitie hated the movie. She doesn't like horror movies, and we didn't know it would be scary. Personally, I found it a bit graphic in parts, but not really scary.

What I did find, though, was an incredible central performance by Natalie Portman about the drive for perfection in art. What separated the film from others are a couple of things. One, the sheer visceralness (visceralosity? visceralization? you know what I mean) of the camera work. The hand held style usually bugs me, but it felt right for this movie. We spend the entire film inside Nina's head. An omnipresent cameraman or true third person view would not work. Second, Nina herself isn't sure what's real, and director Darren Aronofsky successfully puts us, the viewer, into her scissor scarred ballet shoes by keeping us on the edge of fantasy. I never once thought she was literally transforming, or that any of her delusions were real, but they served their purpose on a sheerly metaphoric level.

I'm not a perfectionist in my art. I know writing is sloppy, I know I make mistakes both grammatically and structurally. I don't have that drive for complete perfection - nor do I think a writer CAN - that a ballet dancer has, no, needs. This movie would not work for a writer, for if a writer were to strive for what the ballerina requires, nothing would ever get produced. In fact, the end result of the movie is a way of approaching achievement of that perfection.

So no, I don't relate to Nina in that sense -- but I understand her. I understand her drive. I understand the push from and twisted relationship with her mother. I understand (and I suppose in a way do relate) to her drive to experience new things, to see how far one can push without breaking. There's a duality expressed throughout the movie -- most clearly visualized by the stunning use of black and white, especially in the costumes -- that shows us Nina's problem. She can be the perfect ballerina, or she can LIVE. The teacher/choreographer Thomas says repeatedly in the film that she needs to let go.

Perhaps that's the message - pushing too hard, driving toward a goal with blinders on ISN'T optimal. We SHOULD let go, we should strive to be our best while living our life - most importantly, as so many other artists have shown before - we should strive for one thing that matters intrinsically to any dancer -- balance.

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