+ Obsessing Over Black Swan


We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan. She desires freedom but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince, but before he can declare his love her lustful twin, the black swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated the white swan leaps of a cliff killing herself and, in death, finds freedom.--Thomas Leroy, Black Swan

I was utterly blown away by Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, a dance thriller centred around ballet dancer Nina's attempts to carry off the dual role of White and Black in Swan Lake. Her artistic director Thomas Leroy believes she needs to let go of her unrealistic aims for perfection; "You could be brilliant, but you're a coward." This obsession with fulfilling her dream ("I just want to be perfect") ultimately leads to her losing her own mind as she sinks deeper and deeper into her preparation for the role.

Back in her dressing room during a break, Nina sees Lily, the uninhibited and passionate new dancer and her closest dance rival, in the black swan costume. Within seconds they are fighting about Nina's ability to play the black swan herself and suddenly she smashes Lily into a mirror. 'Lily' then transforms into Nina's dark, sultry doppelganger and it is in effect an aspect of Nina herself trying to strangle her! Once more turning back into dancer Lily, Nina believes she has killed her and hurriedly hides the body before going on stage to perform an exceptional performance as the black swan herself.

This part of the film was possibly one of my favourite cinematic moments I've ever seen, as we see Nina finally becoming the embodiment of the black swan, complete with feathers and reddish swan eyes. I couldn't find any stills of her actual metamorphosis into the black swan during the performance, so the two shown below will have to do!

Black Swan


***SPOILER***: Nina embodies the white and black swan so perfectly that she is consumed by the story itself. As the quote at the top of this post mentions, only in death can the white swan find freedom. And, only in death, does Nina finally achieve her goal of perfection. Seconds before the final frame of the film is drenched in bright white light, her final words, "I felt it — perfect. It was perfect" are almost drowned out by the audience's rapturous cheers for her.


+ Hitchcock's Rope and Rear Window

Thanks to my lovely Hitchcock Box Set, I now have a chance to make my way through some of the many Hitchcock masterpieces still on my must-see list. I don't have much time to blog but I wanted to say a word or two about the two films I've watched recently.


The Rope

Rope stars James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger, it is the first of Hitchcock's films in colour, and is notable for taking place in real time and being edited so as to appear as a single continuous shot through the use of long takes. It's a style I'm not used to seeing in film, and as such my concentration did drift slightly! Suspense intensifies with every minute, helped along by the fact that the trunk (with a corpse inside it) is never far from the view of the camera, and as events unfold in real time we watch as Phillip Morgan slowly but surely becomes a nervous wreck who is just about ready to confess! The film's absolutely worth a watch, although I didn't find it as gripping and as effective as any of the other Hitchcock films I've seen.

Rear Window

rear window

Other than Psycho, I would class this as my favourite Hitchcock film so far, and even Hitchcock himself modestly remarked that his batteries were 'fully charged' while making this film. Grace Kelly and James Stewart make a great on-screen couple, but for me the insurance nurse Stella McCaffery, played by Thelma Ritter, who gets some of the best lines in the whole film! Here are some examples:

+ "Intelligence. Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence."

+ "We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How's that for a bit of homespun philosophy? "

+ Stella: "You heard of that market crash in '29? I predicted that."
Jeff: "Oh, just how did you do that, Stella?"
Stella: "Oh, simple. I was nursing a director of General Motors. Kidney ailment, they said. Nerves, I said. And I asked myself, "What's General Motors got to be nervous about?" Overproduction, I says; collapse. When General Motors has to go to the bathroom ten times a day, the whole country's ready to let go."