Black Swan, becoming perfect, and losing yourself

In Black Swan, Nina was chosen to play the role of the Swan Queen for the Swan Lake ballet. It tells a story of a princess who was turned into a swan by a curse. The spell could only be broken if there was a man who confessed his love to her. The Swan Queen regained her human form at nights and she told this story to a prince. Nevertheless, the evil sorcerer who had cursed her kidnapped her. He then put his daughter on the behalf of the Swan Queen. The prince was tricked and he eventually confessed his love to the daughter of the evil sorcerer. To cut the long story short, in the end the Swan Queen killed herself.

That’s why the role of the evil sorcerer’s daughter (the black swan) is danced by the same ballerina. It is to show how she tricked the prince into loving her. Thus, Nina played the role of the Swan Queen (the white swan) and the evil sorcerer’s daughter (the black swan). But, there is a problem. Nina, due to her upbringing by her rigid mother, was a perfectionist and thus she was only fit to play the white swan. Her boss asked her to lose herself, to let her perfection go, when she played the black swan. How did Nina achieve this? Well, as she was obsessed with perfection, she would transform into a black swan herself. Thus the beginning of a struggle between these opposing identities within Nina.

The influence of the black swan identity grew stronger throughout the movie. Nina could finally become the black swan when she saw Lily, her projective alternate, in her dressing room who said that she would replace her for the next act, i.e., the black swan act. Nina just finished her white swan act, although she played it imperfectly, as she fell into the ground. She has failed as the white swan, and now Lily would replace her as the black swan. So Nina stabbed her, or so she thought, as she did not want to relish the role to Lily. By doing so, she unleashed fully the black swan in her. Her inner alternate had killed her projective alternate. She “lost herself”, her white swan identity, and became the black swan. Become the black swan she did. She played the role of the black swan perfectly, which was symbolized by her physical transformation into a black swan during the act. She finished the act by kissing her boss and showing him that she, indeed, can seduce like what the black swan was supposed to do.

Finally, she returned to the final act, where she was supposed to play the white swan and killed herself in the end of the ballet. Well, she actually had killed herself before, when she stabbed Lily. She did not stab Lily; she stabbed herself. Thus, the white swan died both in the ballet and in the reality. Did she fail? No, it was perfect to her, as only by doing so she could play her roles perfectly. She became what her roles thoroughly entailed. Indeed, in the final scene, she muttered, “I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect”, as the screen fades to white — not the more common black! The film ends with white screen.

Her director told her to be perfect when she played the white swan and to lose herself when she played the black swan. Nina, on the other hand, figured out how to be perfect when she played both roles. Although, in the end, she must lose herself by doing so. It is not either-or. It is both-and. It is not the matter of becoming perfect and losing herself in turn. It is the matter of becoming both at the same time. She becomes perfect and loses herself.


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