Black Swan (film)  

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Black Swan is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, and Mila Kunis. Its plot revolves around a production of Swan Lake by a prestigious New York City ballet company. The production requires a ballerina to play both the innocent White Swan and the sensual Black Swan. One dancer, Nina (Portman), is a perfect fit for the White Swan, while Lily (Kunis) has a personality that matches the Black Swan. When the two compete for the parts, Nina finds a dark side of herself.

Aronofsky conceived the premise by connecting his viewings of an actual production of Swan Lake with an unrealized screenplay about understudies and the notion of being haunted by a double, similar to the folklore surrounding doppelgängers. The director also considered Black Swan a companion piece to his 2008 film The Wrestler, with both films involving demanding performances for different kinds of art.


A New York City ballet company is preparing for the production of Swan Lake, choosing to cast a newcomer as both the White and Black Swan, casting out their prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder). Dancer Nina Sayers (Portman) competes for the part alongside several other young dancers, including Lily (Kunis). Nina lives with her overbearing mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), a failed dancer who tries to control every aspect of her daughter's life.

The director, Thomas Leroy (Cassel), is reluctant to cast Nina; he claims that she is the perfect White Swan, but that she lacks the passion of the darkly sensual Black Swan. Nina visits him after her audition to ask for the role. He responds by kissing her, and she bites his lip, surprising and exhilarating him; the next day, he casts her in the lead.

Around this time, Nina begins developing a strange rash or abrasion on her shoulder. Her mother notices the mark, and accuses Nina of "scratching herself", apparently an old habit. Nina also begins suffering bizarre, and often grisly, hallucinations often involving injuries to herself. However, as soon as the injury appears it will disappear, leaving Nina disoriented.

Nina begins to feel that Lily, her understudy, is determined to take the lead away from her. Leroy, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly frustrated with Nina's onstage inhibitions and refusal of his sexual advances. Tensions also worsen between Nina and Erica, as Nina begins to rebel against her mother's authority.

One night, during an argument between Nina and Erica, Lily appears at their door and offers to take Nina out for dinner. Nina agrees, and Lily offers her ecstasy, which she reluctantly accepts, and the two are soon making out with two strange men. They return to Nina's apartment where Nina and her mother argue bitterly. After Erica slaps her, Nina furiously drags Lily into her room, where they have sex.

The next morning, hungover and groggy, Nina wakes up late and rushes to rehearsal, where she finds Lily dancing the Swan Queen in Nina's absence. Furious, Nina confronts Lily, who dismisses her accusations of trying to steal the role. Nina asks why she didn't wake her up in the morning. Lily replies by stating she spent the night with a man whom she met at the club, and mocks Nina for fantasizing about her. Nina then realizes that her sexual encounter with Lily was another hallucination.

The night before the performance, Nina is rehearsing late when she witnesses Leroy and Lily having sex, but realizes it is only another hallucination when Leroy transforms into Lord Rothbart. The rash on her shoulder has worsened, and little black barbs have poked through her skin. Nina pulls one of the barbs from her skin, and it appears to be a black feather. Her legs begin to form into the shape of a swan's, causing her to fall and hit her head on the bed post, knocking her unconscious.

The next morning, the day of the performance, Nina is locked in her room with her mother, who tells her they are not leaving until Nina feels better and that she already called the company reporting Nina to be too sick to perform. Enraged, Nina physically cowes her mother into submission and escapes.

Nina arrives at the theater and immediately begins preparing herself to perform. Leroy tells her that she is the only person standing in her way, and that she should let go of who she used to be. Nina begins dancing, and upon seeing Lily becomes disoriented and falls onstage. Distraught, Nina returns to her dressing room and finds Lily there, dressed in her Black Swan costume. Nina shoves Lily into her mirror, and it shatters. During the ensuing scuffle, Nina takes a shard of the mirror and stabs Lily, killing her. Nina stashes the body in the bathroom, and goes to dance the Black Swan.

Nina dances the Black Swan passionately and sensually, growing black feathers all over her body as she dances; at the end of the act, she receives a standing ovation. She returns to her dressing room, seeing a pool of blood under the bathroom door, and begins changing into her White Swan costume for the final act. She is interrupted by a knock on the door, and it is Lily, come to congratulate her. The fight was another hallucination, but the mirror was shattered — Nina realizes that she stabbed herself, not Lily.

She dances flawlessly in the final act, and jumps to kill herself as the White Swan, to wild applause. Leroy finds and congratulates Nina, before he notices her fatal wound. He asks what happened, and she responds: "I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect."


See also

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