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The Only Ones for Me Are the Mad Ones…
**Fair warning: There are significant spoilers in this post. If you haven’t seen Black Swan, wait to read this one…**
Watched Black Swan last night, thanks to D and his magic computer ways. It was definitely one of those movies that I kind of hated while watching: You know that there’s some sort of twist, so the entire time you’re watching, you’re trying to be 2 steps ahead of it, guessing what the outcome will be, trying to show that you’re smarter than the plot twist. I’d say we were about 70% successful in achieving it with this movie.
The twists aren’t completely veiled and I think it’s fairly safe to say that from the very beginning it’s obvious that you are building up to something rather bleak, so in that regard, the movie was not terribly impressive. Still, it managed to leave a pretty significant impression on me after it was over.
**I would say this is definitely where you should stop reading if you don’t want any spoilers…**
OK, so for those of you left… I guess I’m really struck by the passion and drive of main character Nina (played by Natalie Portman) was and how real it felt to watch her spiral into insanity while hoping to obtain perfection, even though most of her experiences were only half based in reality. The dance world already fascinates me because of its intense levels of frustration and sacrifice, which inevitably only equate to very little in the way off pay off… Most of those women struggle and push themselves for hours upon hours, years upon years, disciplining their bodies, forgoing their childhoods, their social lives, (their ability to grow breasts)… And to what end? Most of them are not able to pursue their passion professionally, let alone become stars in the field. So what creates the drive to succeed against such impossible odds?
There certainly seem to be several factors that push Nina–a controlling mother, the dream of long-awaited recognition, the personal desire for perfection. I’m not sure if the idea is that Nina suffered from mental illness separate from her intense desire to succeed as a ballerina or if that was a result of the drive. I guess that question is what makes the movie so interesting to me.
I’ve often admired people who were able to give themselves wholeheartedly to their passion, whether it be music, dance, writing, or something else, and wondered why I couldn’t find that own intensity in myself. Most people who are at that level of competition and dedication will say that their love is almost obsessive for their art, and I wonder if that’s the key. Does one need to push herself to that obsessive, almost unhealthy edge to truly be successful? Are those who might have borderline tendencies with mental illness able to embrace art (in all its mediums) in a way others cannot, or is their mental illness a result of their incurable feverish dream for perfection and/or success? I’m honestly not sure which I think is true.
Kerouac famously said:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
Are these the ones who create the best art, who write the most brilliant novels, or whose dancing inspires us most? In Black Swan, Nina wasn’t able to truly reach perfection, to truly become the role of the White and Black Swan until she literally let the madness take her over. Throughout the film, she is reaching, reaching, reaching to attain that something inside her to let her achieve greatness, but grabbing it also forces her to break and to completely let go of her sanity.
I wonder if this complete loss is necessary in order to achieve true artistic perfection/achievement. One would assume yes, judging from the film’s ending: After the performance is over, when the audience is cheering, when she is sputtering out her last breaths (after stabbing herself during one of her delusions), her blood and life spilling out from behind the white tulle of her costume, she is smiling, gasping: “I was perfect. I was perfect.“