Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Film Review: Black Swan

Saturday, February 26, 2011
With the Academy Awards coming up, Godzdogz will be having a look at some of films that have been nominated.

It is not often I would sit down and watch a film that revolves around the world of a New York ballet company but Darren Aronofsky is rarely constrained by his subject matter. The film revolves around the newly appointed principal dancer Nina (Natalie Portman) and the company's production of Swan Lake. Nina struggles with the dual-role of the White/Black Swan. Whilst the shy and inhibited but gifted performer is perfect for the pure White Swan, she has to carry off the part of the villainous Black Swan, an onstage embodiment of guile and sensuality. The film then chronicles Nina's twisted journey into and battle with hedonism and eventually insanity, as she tries to control the "black swan" within and the "black swans" around her, such as passionate new dancer Lilly and her sleazy director Thomas Leroy.

The film itself is a technical masterpiece. Aronofsky portrays Nina's descent into madness in his characteristically brutal and mind bending fashion. The inspiration of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is obvious and the film creates a tension that sucks the audience in. Portman's performance, as a young women tottering on the edge, is excellent but alas the character she plays seems to be very one dimensional and is only saved by Portman dragging it up screaming and shouting.

One thing that did strike me about the concept of the film is its rather clichéd dualistic approach. Of course this mentality is as old as humanity itself. The Black Swan represents sensuality and all the delights of the material world, the White Swan represents purity and innocence. This simple division loses sight of the person as a whole: a person, body and soul, created by God in love. A body and soul of the same nature as those taken on fully by the Word in his Incarnation.

The film does not really make any moral judgements, instead adopting a 'zen-lite' balancing philosophy, but the consequences of Nina's struggle seem to confirm the dualist mentality that runs throughout the film. Once Nina has vanquished her internal Black Swan and defeated her body she declares, rather sadly, "I'm perfect."

Mark Davoren

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