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Items | ‘Black Swan’: Aronofsky’s dance between madness and the quest for perfection

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Darren Aronofksy is one of the most controversial directors today – and was once responsible for bringing to life several titles that would go down in cinematic history. Although his official debut album, “Pi”, did not receive the recognition it deserved upon its release, Aronofsky would shock audiences with the controversial “Requiem for the Dream” and subsequent productions that would immortalize its unique imagery. and his enviable storytelling ability. But it will be necessary to wait until 2010 for the filmmaker to dedicate his best title, at least for the moment: the ambitious and chilling psychological thriller ‘Black Swan’.

Based on the ballet by Pyotr Ilyrich Tchaikovsky, the feature film starring none other than Natalie Portman follows a young ballerina named Nina who is part of a respected and very strict dance company. She soon prepares to audition for Swan Lake, doing everything she can to land the lead role of Princess Odette (who is transformed into a white swan by a terrifying wizard), whether it’s raw ambition behind the soft side, or by pressure from her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a frustrated dancer who has never been in the spotlight in any of the performances she has participated in. Despite her best attempts, Nina suffers from a problem: her interpretation of Odette is passionate and impeccable, but she does not seem to carry the sensuality and obscurities necessary to embody Odile, the exact opposite of the main character (the Black Swan). .

It’s almost impossible to argue with the gigantic thematic multiplicity that unfolds in the feature – as it brings together elements of cinema with those of psychology and literature in an astonishing metamorphosis of what it means to delve into madness. The central point (Nina’s transition from a young dreamer to a formidable force who will do anything to win) is a personal analysis of the human condition, which had already been analyzed by Aronofsky ten years earlier and which would gain epic reaffirmation in the underrated ‘Noah’ and ‘Maman!’, released soon after. More than that, the filmmaker’s passion for the conflict of the individual with the looming threat of a double that fails to materialize and somehow brings out our deepest fears is remarkable.

The art of ballet presents itself as a double-edged sword: a breathtaking spectacle for those who see it and an exhausting process of seeking perfection for those who perform it. Nina goes into exile in need to prove to herself that she can – and even more, that she is not just a woman controlled by her mother and the director of the company in which she dances. But the problem is that Nina doesn’t trust herself and lets the inexplicable possibility of losing the role of Odette send her into a senseless spiral of uncertainty and disbelief. Well, veteran Beth (Winona Ryder) confronts her even after she loses stardom to Portman’s character: “He always said you were a freezing little girl,” she says, referring to company director Thomas (Vincent Cassel).

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Even after Thomas believes she’ll do a brilliant job, Nina continues to get into trouble – and things are made worse by the arrival of the rambunctious, carefree Lily (Mila Kunis at the peak of her career), who has was chosen by Thomas as a substitute (classic movement of great theatrical performances which serves to allow the show to continue in the event of death). But Nina, absorbed by a persecution syndrome that drains her innocence and turns her into a reincarnation of the black swan, firmly believes that Lily wants to steal her prominent place in the company and will do anything to prevent her from giving her best. of herself.

The idea of ​​the double (or doppelgänger, in the original German) is a concept explored in world culture for centuries and dates back to medieval times, impersonating an omen, bad luck or even the existence of an “evil twin” that represents our worst features. Not thinking too much about the entertainment industry, Jordan Peele explored this sign to the point of nausea with the praised horror “Us,” starring Lupita Nyong’o. But here, the double takes on a completely different format – more precisely in the duality observed between Lily and Nina, already mentioned: while the latter is perceived as a woman without total control of all that she has to offer, the former proof of a frightening disinhibition. and that makes her a threat to a protagonist who ultimately has nothing to fear.

It’s no surprise, then, that each piece of Aronofsky’s meticulously crafted gear ends with a series of shocking twists that take the audience’s breath away. Nina, steeped in Odette’s naivety, is forced to face Lily, painted in the implacable form of Odile; in a fit of rage and frustration (which had been premeditated since the opening minutes of the film), she uses a piece of glass to rid herself of her nemesis, eventually absorbing the black swan and transforming into the complementary part of your personality in an impeccable presentation worthy of applause. The problem is that, in fact, Nina was facing herself, moved by the immanent and almost ethereal madness of excessive success and materializing the clash between fact and fiction in a powerful whirlwind of victory and defeat.

Finally, about to rid herself of all guilt and fear (but not without the bittersweet feeling of ambivalence), Nina says goodbye to herself as she says the last words: “I was perfect.”

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