"The Black Swan"


B Y   D A N I E L   J A C O B


A must for every mother-daughter to see and discuss together.  As powerful and relevant for women and girls as "Legends of the Fall" was for fathers and sons.  A classic tale of the light and dark aspects of a person---especially focused on the Feminine Shadow

A curious job of casting here.  Winona Ryder plays the worn-out, used up "Little Princess" of days gone by.  Natalie Portman plays the "next generation" of Swan Queen.  The Director tells her, straight out:  "If the casting we are doing only involved the white swan, you would get the role immediately. But it also involves the black swan, too."  (A pendulum swing from control and discipline to wildness and personal abandon)  As I drove from the theater, it occurred to me that the dichotomy exists in the lives of these two actresses as well. 

Early on in her career, Winona Ryder was a perfect "Little Princess"---the very personification of innocence and sweetness (in some of her films).  She also demonstrated a propensity for having an "evil twin" self that could be explored.  She was the teen to whom spirits LOVED to reveal themselves in "Beetlejuice," and a beautiful but conventional socialite in "The Age of Innocence" (opposite Daniel Day Lewis). 

Then came some dark days in her personal life around 2001---bizarre stories of shoplifting escapades, and run-ins with the law, followed by a four year hiatus from acting.  And wasn't that a few years after she starred in "Girl Interrupted" with Angelina Jolie?  It was expected to be a great comeback for Ryder, but instead became a fantastic showcase for Jolie, who began rising quickly to become one of the Queens of Hollywood.

Portman is the heir of all that innocence and sweetness in movie land, even as her character inherits fame and attention from Ryder's character in "Black Swan."  In my mind.... a genius casting job under Director Darren Aronofsky.  I wonder if the actresses ever come clean with each other about their feelings of being "replaced" or "overshadowed" in their real-life careers. 

As I said, the film is a study of duplicity in females---as well as co-dependence between mother and daughter.  Another great casting duo with Natalie Portman and Barbara Hershey as her repressed, but artistically engaged mother.  An old theme revisited---breaking free from old patterns, laid down in family-of-origin. 

And what a cool variation:  A were-swan!  Something that springs forth---mostly fantasy, with some noticeable physical components.  The film is less scary than disturbing.  And personally, I LOVE being disturbed.  It puts me face down in "the soup" (as Carl Jung used to call our personal psychological process).......and there is no sign of a Seinfeldian "Soup Nazi" to declare "no soup for yew!!!"  It's all here, for anyone who cares to indulge---especially if we become daring enough to actually apply some of the reflections to self. 

I would love to hear your thoughts as well.  Do write in with any comments or questions.  More to come as it occurs to me!

DJ.  12/27/2010



Copyright, 2010, by Daniel Jacob.  All Rights Reserved.  May be copied and shared, for purposes of personal growth and/or research, so long as the above URL and this copyright are included.  All reproduction for profit, by any means, requires the written permission of the author.