Saturday, February 19, 2011


Black Swan is probably one of the more controversial films shown this season. I’m sure many of you have probably seen it or heard about it – thus I’ll save you from my excruciating and mundane description of the movie.

After examining the trailer several times before walking into the theaters, I have to say I’m rather surprised by the vast amount of violence (& masturbation) featured in this film. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t expect this at all, since – like they all say – violence and sex sells. In a tragedy packaged with hot girls in tutus, the last thing I would expect would have to be the abusive psychedelic nature of the protagonist. What really struck me is the “visuality” of it all: call me a coward, but this movie scared the crap out of me. Darren Aronofsky effectively utilizes lily as the antithesis of Nina, to clearly articulate the paranoia that drives the plot.

In retrospect, the motifs of the film – jealousy, power, lust, the desire to usurp… is not unheard of - in a more tangible form, the ballerinas are just like Hollywood actresses – just trade the ballet shoes with stilettoes and tutus for designer couture.

Getting back to aestheticized violence, this film consists of classical elements of a tragedy. & correct me if I'm wrong, most tragedies comes hand in hand with violence. (i.e. stuff by Shakespeare & Euripides) The idea behind this draws an interesting question: could "violence" and "tragedy" be mutually exclusive? Would a story still be a “tragedy” sans violence? What’s left if one removes violence from the picture? would it be no longer alluring?


  1. One could consider violence to be categorized as physical or non-physical. For example, non-physical violence might include psychological assault like in Black Swan. The mental trauma Portman's character experiences from herself and and other characters like her mother should count as violence since they inflict pain in a shocking way, even if there is no physical disturbance.

  2. Like McCarthy does in the ending of "Blodd Meridian," sometimes sans-violence can serve to be an even more powerful element. Also, I agree with Andrew said. Although this movie is not about physical violence, the mental disturbance and psychological assault should be categorized under the broad form of violence especially if intended with vehement emotions.

  3. I heard this movie got great reviews because of its provocative nature. And let's be honest-Natalie Portman AND Mila Kunis- That's what I'm talking about. However, the reason this movie won numerous awards was not because of the gorgeous co-stars. Instead, the ability to juxtapose the beautiful aspects of dance to the deep psychological problems of the characters played the deepest role. This balance helped create an outstanding film.

  4. I think sans violence would remove a lot of the alluring features of a movie but I think a story can still be a tragedy without violence. Consider for example a heartbreak that never gets remedied by the end of the story; that would be a tragedy.

  5. Without the violence, Black Swan just wouldn't work as a movie.


    With Natalie Portman dying at the end, making the final sacrifice for her art, there wouldn't be an ending if there wasn't violence. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know if there really are any tragedies, in the classical or Aristotelian sense, where the main character survives in the end (if not dying literally, at least in soul or spirit like Oedipus Rex) Maybe great tragedy on the kind of scale that Aristotle tries to distinguish in his Poetics is inseparable from violence.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.