Sometimes the best genre filmmaking can pass you by. It seemed to happen in 2010: Darren Aronofsky’s excellent film Black Swan was a critical darling that year, with critics raving about his Polanski-esque psychological thriller and Natalie Portman’s fragile central performance. The acclaim continued into 2011, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated it for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, ultimately awarding Natalie Portman Best Actress.
This seemed a trifle odd, because Black Swan really didn’t seem like the sort of movie that critics and award ceremonies liked to praise. They were correct in that the film is heavily influenced by Roman Polanski’s early films – particularly Repulsion – and they were also correct in that Portman’s performance really is exceptional. What most critics and audiences seemed to miss was that Black Swan was a horror film.
The blindness worked both ways: I was struck at the time by how few horror film enthusiasts were talking about it. While the arthouse crowd greedily consumed Black Swan, the horror fans seemed to generally stay away.
The film’s director, Darren Aronofsky, is one of the most interesting filmmakers of contemporary American cinema. His films are generally quite dark and confronting, but he also displays a remarkable versatility. His debut feature was Pi, a scrappily produced black and white Jewish thriller about mathematics. He followed that up with Requiem for a Dream, a confronting adaptation of a Hubert Selby Jr novel. Following that was the romantic fantasy The Fountain, and then the stunning character drama The Wrestler. Each film is starkly different, yet they are all clearly from the same director. He has become one of the most reliable filmmakers in America: it doesn’t seem to matter what Aronofsky makes, because it’s a safe bet it is going to be an interesting experience.
While Aronofsky has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in directing a franchise picture for one of Hollywood’s studios – he has in the past been linked to sequels or remakes of Batman, Robocop and Wolverine – those projects invariably seem to fall by the wayside in favour of his own original projects.
So onto his fifth film: the psychological horror movie Black Swan.
Black Swan originated as The Understudy, a screenplay by Andrés Heinz set in the world of off-Broadway theatre that had been set up at Universal Pictures. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique recalled: ‘Someone approached Darren about it after Requiem for a Dream, but at the time, it didn’t seem as exciting to me as some of the other projects he was being offered.’[i] After Aronofsky passed on the project, it bounced around Hollywood’s studios and production companies for several years until it crossed Aronofsky’s desk a second time. He purchased the screen rights, and set about relocating it from the world of theatre to the world of classical ballet.
‘I liked the engine of the original script,’ said Aronofsky, ‘even though it wasn’t set in the ballet world.’[ii]
‘I was also very interested in Dostoyevsky’s The Double,’ he explained, ‘which is a story about a guy who wakes up and his double’s there – it starts to replace his life. And then I went to see a production of Swan Lake, which I thought was just a bunch of girls in tutus. I didn’t know what it was. Then I saw that there was a black swan and white swan, both played by the same dancer, and it was kind of a eureka moment: I was like, “Oh wow, so there’s a double…” Then it started to come together.’[iii]
Setting a film around classical ballet presented more interesting territory for Aronofsky than theatre, and seemed to give him a lot of potential to make an impact with an audience. He argued that ‘most films in the ballet world, beside The Red Shoes, are pretty awful.’[iv]
There was only ever one lead actor that the director had in mind, which was Natalie Portman.
Portman had made her debut as a child actor in 1994, starring opposite Jean Reno in the acclaimed action film Léon. She continued to perform in film throughout the 1990s in Heat, Beautiful Girls, Everyone Says I Love You and Mars Attacks!. In 1999 she starred in George Lucas’ immensely successful but widely derided Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Aronofsky and Portman originally discussed collaborating on an unrelated ballet-themed film eight years before they made Black Swan. The director noted ‘there was a lot more complexity in Natalie than most people thought. I think because of her beauty and youthfulness she gets cast as an innocent a lot and not many people have given her an opportunity so far to also show her womanhood. So I was hoping no one else would reveal this before I got the chance to do Black Swan.’[v]
Portman found much to relate to in Nina, the talented but brittle protagonist of the film. ‘When I started out as a child actress, I wanted to please everyone, and was always looking for approval. Having grown up, I’m not totally immune to approval, but I do look to please myself. It’s all to do with finding a way to express yourself instead of being the way someone else wants you to be. Nina starts out as this childlike woman, trying to please her mother, trying to please her ballet director and fit exactly into the standards of this world that’s prescribed to her. Finally she finds that perfection only lies in pleasing herself.’[vi]
Aronofsky found researching the world of professional ballet to be an unexpected challenge. ‘They don’t give a shit about anything but ballet,’ he explained. ‘They really don’t care. They don’t care about movies, it’s not their art. It’s some kind of popular culture kind of thing, I guess. They’re really focused on their ballet. They live, breathe, die ballet.’[vii]
It was via choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied that Aronofsky finally managed to insert himself into the ballet industry and start meeting and interviewing relevant professionals.
Aronofsky recalled: ‘There was a dancer, Julie Kent from ABT [American Ballet Theater], who was going through all the different Swan Queen dances for me. I always thought that [the lead character in Swan Lake] was a swan during the day and a woman at night, but then I realized that when she’s a woman at night, when she meets Siegfried, she’s swan-like. And I said, “well what is she at night”, and she said, “Well, she’s kind of half-swan and half-human.” So immediately I got the idea of a werewolf movie, a were-swan movie. That was exciting, because suddenly there was a whole body metamorphosis that goes along with her sexuality, maturity and becoming an artist, it all kind of started to blend together.’[viii]
Mila Kunis was cast as Lily, a fellow ballet dancer who competes with Nina for the chance to play the lead role in Swan Lake.
Kunis had practised ballet briefly as a child, but nowhere near enough to prepare her for the role without help. She said: ‘The thing about ballet that I never knew about is that it’s one of the most excruciating sports that I’ve ever been a part of. I say sports because they train constantly, every single day. Your body changes. Your shoulders drop, your chest opens up and there’s a certain posture that I don’t naturally have because I slouch. So, for three months, I had to constantly stand up straight. And the way that they hold their arms, because they’re always moving their fingers while they’re dancing, also changes the way that they talk in real life. And the feet are different because of the ballet shoes. There are a lot of little things.’[ix]
‘It takes them 10 years at least to look like a ballerina,’ said Kunis. ‘I had six months before production started.’[x]
Barbara Hershey was cast as Erica, Nina’s domineering and controlling mother. ‘People say she’s a mother from hell,’ said Hershey, ‘I say she’s a mother in hell. That’s the difference. She obviously has great ambition for Nina and supports her, and completely takes care of her so she can focus on the ballet, and loves her and adores her. Nina is her life. But on the other hand, she’s at times jealous, at times suffocating, at times too involved, but also she knows that her daughter is delicate mentally, and she’s frightened to death for her.’[xi]
French actor Vincent Cassel was cast as the choreographer Thomas Leroy. He had already established a successful and critically acclaimed career in France before transitioning to English language films in The Messenger, The Reckoning, Ocean’s Twelve and Eastern Promises.
In the critical supporting role of Beth MacIntyre, a former prima ballerina forced into retirement, Aronofsky cast Winona Ryder. It was a canny piece of casting, since the sorts of roles Ryder played in her youth were remarkably similar to those played by Natalie Portman.
Sourcing funding for Black Swan was a torturous process that saw the production constantly set back several weeks at a time throughout 2009. Wild Bunch, which had funded Aronofsky’s previous feature The Wrestler, was unwilling to commission the project for more than US$10 million dollars. Fox Searchlight was interested in distributing the film, but had similar concerns over the budget. Additional funding was sourced via private investors, bringing the final budget to about US$25 million dollars.
Each time the film was delayed, Natalie Portman’s training and diet schedule was correspondingly extended. ‘One thing I didn’t realize until recently,’ Aronofsky later admitted, ‘was that every time we pushed, Natalie was like “another three weeks of carrot sticks and almonds! I’m gonna kill you!” So she really was tortured pretty badly because we had such a hard time getting the money for the film.’[xii]
By the time the film was ready to shoot Portman had lost twenty pounds (approximately nine kilograms). ‘I think my body was kind of in emergency mode,’ she told one journalist. ‘I’m not eating enough, I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m in complete physical distress.’[xiii]
With the film fully cast and production set to commence, the delicate arrangement of independent finances unexpectedly collapsed. Aronofsky said: ‘Two weeks before we started shooting the money fell apart. I mean we were two weeks out, $1,000,000 in, and we realised that the money was a pyramid scheme and didn’t actually exist. So I had to go back to Fox and beg them to get the film made.’[xiv]
The film was ultimately produced on a budget of US$13 million. The shoot was truncated to just 40 days. ‘It was really tough,’ the director admitted. ‘It’s always good to have a box that the budget creates, because in that you can turn your limitations into your strengths, but this box was a bit too small. Every day was a pain and really tough. It was a real hustle, and it was dangerous. Ballet is incredibly athletic, and thus there’s chances of injury, but we were very blessed and lucky to get through it.’[xv]
Prior to the shoot Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique discussed the pre-existing films that would influence Black Swan’s look and tone. Roman Polanski’s thriller Repulsion (1965) was one obvious example; indeed, it had arguably been a strong influence on many of Aronofsky’s films. ‘We talked about The Red Shoes, of course,’ said Libatique. ‘I looked at a lot of Kieslowski in terms of the atmosphere and tone, mostly the Three Colors trilogy. We also looked at a lot of dance films.’[xvi]
A bold colour scheme was developed for the film, with black and white representing the contrasting sides of Nina’s character, pink representing the emotional safety of her childhood, and green representing the jealousy and ambition that takes hold over the course of the story.
The film was shot using Super 16mm film. Aronofsky had used the same format on The Wrestler, and had appreciated how the lightweight cameras freed his camera operators to move more rapidly through the sets and shooting locations. Focus pulling – where the camera switches focus from foreground to background, or vice versa – was all undertaken by hand.
‘We were very nervous about mixing the vérité approach with the horror aspects of the film,’ admitted Aronofsky, ‘because we thought the documentary feel might destroy the suspense of those scenes. We tried to find other films that had taken a similar approach, but we couldn’t, so we just decided to roll the dice.’[xvii]
When he viewed the film’s final cut, Vincent Cassel was surprised by what he saw. ‘I was waiting for something more like early Polanski,’ he said. ‘Something more psychological, with hidden things. It’s much more baroque than I’d thought it would be. I thought it would be more European – more like undertoned, you know? But I like it. It’s sexier than I thought it would be, and scarier.’[xviii]
‘That came out of the ballet,’ said Aronofsky. ‘The great masterpiece ballets – Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet – they’re all tragic with horrific elements and big melodrama. We really wanted to bring that tonality to the film – that contrast of horror at the beauty of ballet.’[xix]
The film’s ballet rehearsals were shot at State University of New York’s Purchase College. The key location was a large rehearsal room lined on two walls with mirrors. ‘It was very clear to me that the mirror was a major character in this film,’ said Aronofsky. ‘And the film is also about doubles. Your reflection is your double, isn’t it?’[xx]
Shooting around the mirrors – particularly in scenes where as many as three large mirrors were visible – required painstaking preparation by the camera team to ensure they would never be inadvertently seen in the shot. Some sequences used one-way glass to enable the camera to safely shoot from behind one of the mirrors. Particularly complex shots, notably those in which Nina’s reflection made different movements to her actual body, used multiple takes against a green screen that were digitally stitched together in post-production.
Other shots made use of much older filmmaking techniques. ‘We worked out how to transition from Vincent to Natalie,’ said Libatique, ‘or how to do a Texas switch with Natalie. […] It’s called a Texas switch because in old westerns, they’d have a stuntman do a stunt and then pop John Wayne into the frame.’[xxi]
Black Swan’s use of mirrors is one of its finest technical achievements. They create a cloying and claustrophobic atmosphere: the last person Nina seems to want to see is herself, and that’s essentially all she can see. Her obsessive pursuit of perfection as a dancer overwhelms her, and her reflections constantly throw her failures or doubts back at her. When the mirrors begin to start showing their own movements, it pushes the film ever further into nightmare territory.
At the same time Nina witnesses or is confronted by increasingly upsetting events around her. People fighting. Jealous comments. Insults scrawled on her dressing room mirror in lipstick A lewd man on the train. As the film progresses, and Nina’s experiences transition from the real to the fantastical, the viewer begins to question what he or she has already seen: what parts were real, and what was imagined?
During the shoot Portman suffered several injuries, chiefly dislocating a rib during a lift and losing toenails due to en pointe work. ‘But it wasn’t the end of the world,’ said Portman. ‘Real dancers dance with such incredible injuries that you wouldn’t even believe. It’s a nightmare for them to be replaced once they’ve made it to the top and they get these roles. [So] they will dance with a sprained ankle or torn plantar fascia or twisted necks just to make sure they can keep their moment.’[xxii]
Aronofsky bluntly reflects the torture professional ballet dancers put themselves through. In one scene Nina graphically loses a toe nail from pointe work. In another she receives massage treatment from a physical therapist. ‘The woman in the film is a real physical therapist,’ said Aronofsky, ‘who, I think, was on-staff masseuse for ABT [the American Ballet Theater] – and she actually helped Natalie a lot. I went to her once and thought “oh, I’ve got to put this on film. Would you do this for a scene?” We called her in at the last minute and just shot that.’[xxiii]
The slightly graphic nature of Nina’s real-world injuries – some involving toe and finger nails from which it is hard not to flinch – allows Black Swan to segue smoothly into more nightmarish territory. A painful rash develops on Nina’s back as the film progresses, until she incredulously pulls a developing feather out from underneath her skin. ‘We made eight stages of Nina’s rash,’ explained prosthetic effects supervisor Mike Marino. ‘It started with very tiny scratches, then progressed to little bumps here and there, to almost covering her whole back. Darren wanted the textures to be symmetrical patterns, a little like chicken skin.’[xxiv]
Aronofsky employs a gradual descent from drama to horror, and I think this is chiefly why the film was so successful with critics and audiences who would normally turn their noses up at a genre film. In effect it tricks them: it lures them in slowly, and by the time the film enters genuinely horrific and fantastical imagery the audience is already on-side and too invested to think too much about it.
The films themes of reflection and duality are prominent in the film’s treatment of Lily (Mila Kunis). She is a professional colleague of Nina’s, yet also a competitor for the role of the black swan. Nina, starved of friends, wants to befriend her but is also sexually obsessed with her. When they go out to a night club together, the film reaches another of its stand-out sequences as Lily slips Nina an ecstasy tablet in her drink and Nina has an elaborate, nightmarish hallucination.
The night club sequence was shot in the Santos Party House in New York’s Chinatown. To achieve the effect of Nina beginning to hallucinate, images of Nina’s bedroom and the demon from her ballet dream were incorporated into the picture, while the faces of other dancers were digitally blurred. Shots of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis’ faces were morphed together. ‘The red and green strobes were pulsing off-rhythm with each other,’ said visual effects artist Ray Lewis, ‘so the challenge was to find images of Natalie and Mila that happened to be the same colour.’[xxv]
Darren Aronofsky worked hard to ensure the ambivalent relationship between Nina and Lily was as believable as possible, going so far as to try and separate the two actors behind the scenes. Natalie Portman said: ‘He’d say, “Oh, Mila is doing really well on her stuff. She’s so much better than you”. Darren would tell us things about each other to try to make us jealous. I think he was trying to create a rivalry in real life between us.’[xxvi]
Nina’s obsession over playing the dual role of white and black swan grows, and along with it her paranoia and hallucinations. It becomes genuinely difficult to tease out what is real and what is fantasy, as she begins to imagine feathers sprouting from her back, a sexual encounter with Lily, witnessing a similar encounter between Lily and Thomas (Vincent Cassel), and Beth (Winona Ryder) stabbing herself in the face with a nail file.
Winona Ryder used a prop file fitted with a collapsing blade and a small sponge soaked in red dye. As she stabbed herself in the cheeks, the blade would safely retract into the handle while the sponge would mark each spot on her face where her character had inflicted a wound. Computer-generated blood was then added to those marks in post-production.
During Beth’s frenzied act of self-mutilation some viewers found themselves confused over which character they were looking at. The confusion is intentional. Aronofsky once observed: ‘some people see Winona, some people see Natalie, some people see the mom, but that’s just because of the casting. I tried to get this pixie look for all these different girls. It limited the palette – I mean the casting choices – but it homed me in to it.’[xxvii]
It is an incredibly confronting moment of violence, and is arguably the point at which Black Swan makes its ultimate transition from paranoid drama to full-blown horror.
When Nina rushes home in a panic, she is confronted by one of the film’s boldest and most imaginative moments: her entire bedroom has come alive. The layered mass of photographs and drawings she has attached to her wall shout, scream and rail against her in a cacophonous wave of sound and motion.
‘They gave us approximately 30 paintings and five photographs,’ said digital compositor Ulysses Argetta. ‘Darren wanted the photographs to melt, and all the pictures had to be talking and animating – eyes moving, faces emoting and mouthing specific lines of dialogue. I took pictures of myself to study mouth positions – I have a background in animation, so that experience lent itself quite well to those shots. I keyframe-animated all the images, and then we tracked them into the scene.’[xxviii]
The film does not slow down from this point. Nina goes to perform the black swan at any cost, including committing violent assault and murdering Lily. As she dances she begins to physically transform into a swan. ‘Darren never wanted magical realism,’ said Dan Schrecker – who acted as the film’s visual effects supervisor. ‘Even when we got to the final transformation, with the appearance of Nina’s swan wings, everything had to feel real. Otherwise, it stopped being scary.’[xxix]
Nina’s final performance was complex enough that Natalie Portman was unable to perform the various moves herself. A dance double, Sarah Lane, performed most of the moves for the sequence, with shots of Portman’s face digitally composited over Lane’s. Nina’s climactic transformation was originally conceived as a physical effect, and to this end Mike Marino was hired as the film’s prosthetic effects designer. The impracticality of constructing complex make-up effects to a ballerina in strenuous motion, however, made such an approach impossible. While practical effects were used for earlier, more subtle, moments, the climax was achieved using computer graphics.
‘There was no way that we could have her turn into a complete swan,’ said Dan Schrecker, ‘or she would not have been able to dance. So we concentrated on her arms, turning them into wings, which we knew had to be central to the transformation. We then played around with permutations of her head and her face – making Natalie more bird-like, elongating her face into a bill, adding a long swan neck, and making feathers spread up over the top of her head like a cowl.’[xxx]
The transformation of a ballerina into a human-swan hybrid is one of the most challenging sequences imaginable to design and executive. Conceptually it seems almost farcical. It is testament to the immense talent that collectively executed this scene that Nina’s transformation is so believable. There is a shot of her perfectly posed, her arms transformed into elegant black wings, that is strikingly beautiful. What’s more Nina seems to positively revel in the experience. She dives fully into the dark, sexualised character of the black swan for the first time. It’s a powerfully surreal sequence.
When she returns to the stage as the white swan, reality kicks back into place. The presumed-dead Lily is inexplicably alive and well. A confused Nina nonetheless performs faultlessly, but at the end of her performance she falls. Thomas rushes to her side, gushing with praise, but praise turns to horror when it becomes apparent that Nina did not stab and kill Lily at all: she stabbed herself.
When it came to showing Nina’ abdominal wound Aronofsky was uncertain how much gore Fox would allow him to include. He opted to take a conservative approach, limiting the amount of blood seen on her costume. When it became clear that he had been too conservative in his approach, additional blood was added digitally.
As Nina dies, the screen fades – crucially – to white. The nightmare has, along with presumably her life, come to a close.
Another inventive element of Black Swan is its remarkable score, produced by regular Aronofsky composer Clint Mansell – formerly of the band Pop Will Eat Itself. Rather than develop melodies himself, Mansell adapted and remixed Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s own compositions for the Swan Lake ballet. He also worked with the electronic music group The Chemical Brothers to develop the film’s occasional sections of dance music.
‘He took Tchaikovsky and he pulled it apart,’ explained Aronofsky, ‘because if you just put Tchaikovsky music over the movie, it would be way, way too up and down and too fast. Classical music is not movie music. So Clint took certain themes and ideas and turned them into scary music. So it flows out of Tchaikovsky, into Clint being influenced by Tchaikovsky, and then back into Tchaikovsky. Even the dance club music is all samples and manipulations by the Chemical Brothers and all these bands using pieces of Tchaikovsky.’[xxxi]
Due to the inferential nature of Mansell’s score, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deemed it ineligible for Academy Awards consideration.
In the lead-up to the 2011 Academy Awards reports started to circulate in the media that much of Nina’s dancing in the film was performed by dance double Sarah Lane and not by Natalie Portman at all. Accusations were made that 20th Century Fox were hiding Lane’s participation in order to make Portman’s own performance seem more impressive, accusations bolstered by a Wall Street Journal essay by Lane herself, backing the point of view that Portman did not undertake the majority of the ballet moves seen on screen. Benjamin Millepied responded to the claims, saying ‘there are articles now talking about her dance double that are making it sound like [Lane] did a lot of the work, but really, she just did the footwork, and the fouettés, and one diagonal [phrase] in the studio. Honestly, 85% of that movie is Natalie.’
‘Here is the reality,’ said Aronofsky, ‘I had my editor count shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are Natalie Portman untouched. 28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math that’s 80% Natalie Portman. What about duration? The shots that feature the double are wide shots and rarely play for longer than one second. There are two complicated longer dance sequences that we used face replacement. Even so, if we were judging by time over 90% would be Natalie Portman.’[xxxii]
Thankfully with the passage of a few years audiences can look past any minor controversies and simply enjoy Black Swan for what it is: an artful, wonderfully paranoid thriller. It’s a monster movie in disguise, and one that achieves an incredible balancing act between darkness and beauty.
It showcases Darren Aronofsky as a remarkable filmmaker. It presents one of many reasons – alongside Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, The Fountain and Noah – why every film he makes, no matter its subject matter, is going to be a film worth watching.
[i] Stephen Pizzello, “Danse macabre”, American Cinematographer, December 2010.
[ii] Nick James, “Dancer in the dark”, Sight & Sound, February 2011.
[iii] Damon Wise, “Darren Aronofsky talks Black Swan”, Empire (http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1167)
[iv] Adam Batty, “Black Swan: interview with Darren Aronofsky”, Clothes on Film, 17 January 2011. (http://clothesonfilm.com/black-swan-interview-with-darren-aronofsky/18472/)
[v] Pamela Jahn, “Black Swan: Interview with Darren Aronofsky”, Electric Sheep, 16 January 2011. (http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/01/16/black-swan-interview-with-darren-aronofsky/)
[vi] David Gritten, “Black Swan: Natalie Portman interview”, The Telegraph, 17 January 2011.
[vii] Damon Wise, “Darren Aronofsky talks Black Swan”, Empire (http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1167)
[viii] Katey Rich, “Interview: Darren Aronofsky on music, scares and gender in Black Swan”, Cinemablend, 2 December 2010. (http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Interview-Darren-Aronofsky-On-Music-Scares-And-Gender-In-Black-Swan-21985.html)
[ix] Christina Radish, “Mila Kunis interview Black Swan”, Collider, 24 November 2010. (http://collider.com/mila-kunis-interview-black-swan/)
[x] Susan Wloszczyna, “Black Swan stars step deftly into roles”, USA Today, 22 July 2010.
[xi] Lisa Rosen, “Barbara Hershey’s intimate dance”, Los Angeles Times, 18 November 2010.
[xii] Peter Knegt, “Darren Aronofsky, Natalie Portman and Winona Ryder on the making of Black Swan”, Indiewire, 21 August 2014. (http://www.indiewire.com/article/darren-aronofsky-natalie-portman-and-winona-ryder-on-the-making-of-black-swan-20140821)
[xiii] Julie Boom, “Those undulating swan arms? Not so easy to do”, New York Times, 28 November 2010.
[xiv] Pamela Jahn, “Black Swan: Interview with Darren Aronofsky”, Electric Sheep, 16 January 2011. (http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/01/16/black-swan-interview-with-darren-aronofsky/)
[xv] Katey Rich, “Interview: Darren Aronofsky on music, scares and gender in Black Swan”, Cinemablend, 2 December 2010. (http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Interview-Darren-Aronofsky-On-Music-Scares-And-Gender-In-Black-Swan-21985.html)
[xvi] Stephen Pizzello, “Danse macabre”, American Cinematographer, December 2010.
[xvii] Darren Aronofsky, “Directing Black Swan”, American Cinematographer, December 2010.
[xviii] Decca Aitkenhead, “Vincent Cassel: Black Swan theory”, The Guardian, 21 January 2011. (http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/jan/20/vincent-cassel-black-swan)
[xix] Steve Dollar, “Swan song schizophrenia – Aronofsky examines the space between ballet and madness”, Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2010.
[xx] Damon Wise, “Darren Aronofsky talks Black Swan”, Empire (http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1167)
[xxi] Stephen Pizzello, “Danse macabre”, American Cinematographer, December 2010.
[xxii] Terry Gross, “To become a “black swan”, Portman had to go dark”, NPR, 30 November 2010.
[xxiii] Nick James, “Dancer in the dark”, Sight & Sound, February 2011.
[xxiv] Joe Fordham, “Metamorphosis”, Cinefex 125, April 2011.
[xxv] Joe Fordham, “Metamorphosis”, Cinefex 125, April 2011.
[xxvi] Amy Kaufman, “Black Swan director ruffles actresses’ feathers”, Los Angeles Times, 28 November 2010.
[xxvii] Nick James, “Dancer in the dark”, Sight & Sound, February 2011.
[xxviii] Joe Fordham, “Metamorphosis”, Cinefex 125, April 2011.
[xxix] Joe Fordham, “Metamorphosis”, Cinefex 125, April 2011.
[xxx] Joe Fordham, “Metamorphosis”, Cinefex 125, April 2011.
[xxxi] Damon Wise, “Darren Aronofsky talks Black Swan”, Empire (http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1167)
[xxxii] Adam Markovitz, “Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky defends Natalie Portman in body-double controversy”, Entertainment Weekly, 28 March 2011.
3 thoughts on ““I just want to be perfect.” | Black Swan (2010)”
You captured this film so beautifully in your essay – terrifying and haunting and beautiful. I found it utterly compelling, confusion and it left me raw and ragged. I didn’t think I could love Natalie Portman any more than I already did, turns out I was wrong!