The Black Swan
The Black Swan
The Black Swan film is about a young ballerina, Nina, who is struggling to become a successful ballerina dancer. On the other hand, her mother is domineering and seems to control Nina even in adulthood. She tries her like a child and as a fallen ballerina pushes her daughter into achieving her failed dreams. On a ballet piece, Nina is given the main roles in the piece. She is supposed to play as twins, the black and the white swan. The piece is about a girl is trapped in a swan’s body, where she must be freed by true love. When she nearly attains the love of a prince, her twin seduces him into her hold. Out of devastation, the white swan kills herself by jumping from a cliff (Aronofosky, 2010).
Nina must be able to bring out both the good and the evil sides represented by the two characters. The film centers on Nina and her struggles to achieving the black swan character, which seems to be harder than the counter part of the white swan. As her character is shy and submissive, Nina easily performs the white swan role. She must look into her inner depths and dark side in order to play the black swan. In the midst, she gets absorbed in the role, such that she cannot differentiate reality from her hallucination. In this, she gives the black swan character life in the form of her other self. Nina plays the black swan. However, she is so overtaken by the two roles, that she kills herself at the end of the performance.
The psychoanalytic theory proposes that there are three different parts of the mind, which influence behavior. The parts are constructed at the different stages of an individual’s life. The parts include the Id, the Ego and the Superego. The id is formed immediately at birth. It is also known as the principle of pleasure, as it strives to gain immediate satisfaction, without considering the consequences. The ego represents the conscious mind, which tries to balance the id desires into reality. It is governed by the principle of reality. The super ego, on the other hand, gives an individual the sense of what is wrong and what is right. The goal of the super ego is to civilize an individual’s behavior.
The psychoanalytic theory suggests that there is a conscious, unconscious and preconscious mind. The mind part of the mind that is conscious is based on logic, while the unconscious mind has no logic and it is based on seeking pleasure. The unconscious part of the mind indirectly expresses itself. When the superego, the id and ego come into conflict, they create anxiety. For protection, the ego creates defenses such as regression, displacement, projection or repression. Displacement involves impulse transfer from one individual to another, while projection involves the attribution of undesirable thoughts towards another person. On the other hand, repression is trying to forget painful memories, by forcing them into the unconscious mind.
Displacement is seen when Nina forms another personality that represents the dark side of her. This is because she is not able to handle two different personalities, where one is a complete opposite of her character and personality. She gives her other self-life and includes her into the reality. In this, she forms hallucinations that of her other self-following her around and pushing her into doing things that are unable or afraid to do. On certain occasions, she is sees the reflection of her other self, staring at her. This transfer of her dark side into the other personality of her also shows projection.
Displacement and projection are also seen, when Nina hallucinates that Lily has taken over and is playing the black swan role. In the hallucination, Nina and Lily enter into a fight, where Nina ends up stabbing Lily with a broken mirror. The dying body of Lily then takes the form of Nina’s other personality. Nina is brought back to reality, when Lily comes to talk to her in the Nina in the dressing. That is when she realizes that she stabbed herself. This shows Nina’s desire to be rid of the overwhelming feelings that the two roles have caused. The forming of another personality of her also shows an ego defense mechanism of distortion. Distortion involves reshaping or reforming reality from the exterior to form an event that can meet an individual’s internal needs.
Psychoanalytic theory also suggests that childhood experiences influence behavior. Since the ego, is not well developed, when a child faces trauma, they repress the event (Macaulay, 10). When the individual experiences loss when they have grown, it may cause re-experiencing of the first loss. Nina has a mother who is determined to control her every move. The interior color and objects in her room are pink. This shows that her mother has not yet let go of Nina, and she treats her like child. On a certain occasion, she undresses Nina like a little girl. This shows Nina’s submissive nature, which her mother is responsible. She follows her mother’s instructions without question.
Nina’s mother also places a music box playing the Swan Lake tune, by Nina’s bedside whenever she is going to sleep. All this reflects on Nina’s personality. This includes her shy and submissive nature. She follows the Thomas’, the director of the piece, instructions without, following his every word. She is determined to please him by performing the black swan role to his requirements. On the other hand, her mother’s pressure through the music, serves as an added motivation for her to be able to play the Swan Queen.
Individuals are often not aware of the effects of the unconscious mind on their mental state. One of the ways that the conscious mind expresses itself is through dreams. The id is responsible for the unconscious mind. The id forms the primary-process thought of the unconscious mind. As this thought is not accepted in the conscious mind of the adult, it is repressed to an individual’s dream. The dream comprises of several processes, which include condensation, displacement, representation, symbolism and secondary elaboration. Condensation involves condensing of ideas into brief images. Displacement involves the separation and attachment of an object in the dream from its real significance into a different object. Representation is the translation of a thought into an image that can be seen, while symbolism involves replacing an idea by the use of symbols. Secondary elaboration, on the other hand, involves the combination of different images and ideas, forming a logical story out of it.
In the film, Nina dreams that she is having sexual relations with “Lily”, an accomplished ballerina, who is also participating in the piece. In the dream, Lily has a tattoo of black wings on her back. She is in control and satisfies Nina (Beystehner, 122). This could represent Nina’s desire for the fulfillment and accomplishment of the Black Swan role. It is also symbolizes that the black swan role has taken over Nina’s life. Nina is also able to defy her mother in the dream. This shows her desire for freedom and detachment from her mother’s control. In the dream, Nina’s desire to achieve the black swan character is seen through the condensation of the idea into a black feather tattoo, on a confident Lily, who is in touch with her sexual nature. Lily and the tattoo represent the role Lily wants to take up.
Displacement is also present as Nina’s dream does not directly show her desires but places them in the object of Lily and the tattoo. Her thoughts to be as accomplished as Lily and to attain her character in playing the black swan are also represented in the dream. The symbols seen in this dream include the tattoo and the sexual gratification, which represent Nina’s satisfaction, when the black swan starts taking over her. Secondary elaboration is seen through the whole dream, where Nina defies her mother and meets her desires for the black swan personality (Averbuch, 12).She arrives home late from clubbing and goes with a visitor, without giving her mother any explanations. She is not concerned about what her mother has to say and ignores her comments. She is in one with the black swan role, having sexual interactions with Lily. This forms a logical story, which Nina can relate.
The psychoanalytic theory also suggests five stages of development, which include the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage and the genital stage. At every stage, the libido or energy of a person is attached to an individual’s body organ (Haley, 31). The oral stage involves the acquisition of pleasure by a child orally, for example, through suckling. At the anal stage, the child gets pleasure through withholding and expelling of feces. The phallic stage involves the Oedipus complex, where a child is attracted to the parent of the opposite sex. Latency stage, on the other hand, does not have any psychosexual development. Lastly, the genital stage involves gaining pleasure from the genitals and independence development.
The psychosexual stages have various influences on personality. When individuals undergo experiences through these stages, it results to personality types that are distinct. These effects are caused by either overindulgence or frustration. Nina possesses some of the characteristics caused by overindulgence in the oral stage. They include a gullible and trusting nature, overdependence on others and admiration of other individuals. Nina personality is represented as naive and who trusts every word her director tells her. She is also over dependent on her mother shown through her submissive nature. Her admiration for other people is seen in her dream of Lily possessing the feather tattoo.
Aronofosky, D (Producer), Medavoy, M (Director). (2010). Black Swan. USA: Phoenix Pictures and Dune Entertainment.
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Averbuch, Robert. Psychodynamic Theories of Behavior. Retrieved from homepages.wmich.edu/~macdonal/SW 6660.05Individuals/psychodynamics.ppt
Haley, Melinda. (2004). Theories of Counseling: Psychoanalytic Theory. Retrieved from www.ablongman.com/helpingprofessions/coun/ppt/therories/psychoanalytic.ppt
Beystehner, Kristen, M. Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Revolutionary Approach to Human Personality. Retrieved from http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/beystehner.html
Macaulay, Alastair. 2011. The Many Faces of ‘Black Swan,’ Deconstructed. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/arts/dance/10swan.html?pagewanted=all