27 December 2011

The Black Swan

I saw this movie immediately after watching this clip, which basically warns against falling for narratives or stories. But how do we do that? We are all made up of stories and spew them by the minute. Yet, he (Tyler Cowen) has a point: when we tell a story, we inevitably tell it through our filter. So, any story leaves off something off the 'original' and takes on a little of the teller. A story also becomes in some way 'of' the story-teller.

So, it was in this frame of mind that I watched Black Swan. Saying anything about good vs. evil narratives is quite a self-conscious effort, post-Cowen's clip. But here goes.

The movie The Black Swan is all about white and black; good and pure juxtaposed against evil and sinful/lusty. But only until a point – after which good melts into evil and vice versa.

Nina needs to play both characters – the white swan and the black swan – equally well. She is a natural at playing the white swan, but when it comes to its dark counterpart, her performance pales, freezes. Because, however vulnerable her public, white self may be, it exercises great control over her self-mutilating, repressed side. This side can only come to its own at night, or when she is safe from the prying eyes of her over-protective (and perhaps abusive?) mother.

The role is a challenge to Nina quite simply because in real life, she is the white and black swan. With much difficulty, her white swan-self has kept the black swan out of her public, conscious reality. If she must play the black swan to perfection, she must come dangerously close to her hidden, tucked-away side. And, that’s a risk, and she knows it.

The best stories (hope Mr Cowen is not listening) or at least the ones I fall for are those that leave you with no answers, that meld white and black to an indistinguishable point.

Take Macbeth, for instance. Is Lady Macbeth entirely to blame for her husband’s deeds, or was she just the spark that kindled the murderous rage within Macbeth himself?

It is also a sad commentary on the temporal nature of show business. Youth-beauty-talent-the quest for perfection and eternal fame – and the descent into depressing reality.

Nina, of course, has her cake and eats it too. She delivers a perfect performance – black and white – and then dies – just as the plot requires. She does not live to deliver a lesser performance. Considering the toll that the black and white swans take on her, it’d be perhaps difficult for her to ever play the role again – let alone with perfection. Eternity is perfect, and her role was to remain eternal.

As with most personal, non-work things I write these days (or don't), this too requires much more elaboration than that in this post. But here I must end for lack of time.

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