SPOILERS! If you haven't seen Black Swan and don't know the story of Swan Lake and don't know why they call it a swan song and don't know about the swan dive and don't want to know the end or anything else about this film, please click away now.
Ok so. D and I finally went and saw Black Swan a couple weekends ago. I blogged about it -- oh wait, that can't be right...where's the effing time machine...Dec 23?!
Hitting the side of my computer does not, in fact, make this date change. Wow, it was really that long ago already.
Anyhoo! One of the things I really anticipated was the liberation Nina would experience, as I saw mention of this in some form or another in several reviews. So cool! Black, instead of symbolizing evil and darkness, would for once symbolize liberation. Something to aspire to. Forget the white knight in shining armor. The little black dress was coming, and she was going to bring feathers and fabulousness.
At least, that was my dream before I actually saw the movie. As most everyone knows, the movie (and Swan Lake-- why did I not see this coming) ends with Nina back in the role of the white swan, back to the little girl voice that barely forms the words: "I was perfect." The liberated angry face-netted black swan appeared for a moment, but she couldn't be sustained. The liberation was short-lived.
Or on the other hand, maybe the death of the white swan didn't necessarily signal the death of the black swan as well. I am no psychological expert but I could see how a mentally ill person, which is how a lot of the press around this movie billed Nina's character, might truly believe that stabbing herself as the White Swan might leave only the liberated Black Swan. I think it's possible that Aronofsky might have intended to leave that interpretation open-- did any of you see the end of "The Wrestler"? Talk about an ending that's not An Ending.
In a movie that's as filled with metaphor as this one, I could see that being a subtle implication-- somewhere roaming the streets of NYC, there's a dancer who once was obsessed with "perfection," who escalated her self-destruction in body and mind, until she realized that she could live free of all that if she destroyed that perfectionist inside, who's living a happy, more balanced and Lily-like life now. It's totally a rosy take on a Sweepingly Dramatic death scene, I know.
Or maybe the ending is literal-- she died, swan song, The End. She killed herself because she couldn't stand the thought of growing up and growing past the frightened person she was. But I like to consider the artistic alternative, too. It might be rosy, but I do think it's instructive and artistically truthful, too. There are instances in life when we have the opportunity to completely change, to transform and leave behind aspects of our old selves that no longer fit with who we are.
Ok, ok, someone is waiting for me to say it so I will-- motherhood can be like that. Giving birth was definitely like that for me, quite literally. To let go of our old selves can involve mourning and sadness and fear, but it can also be incredibly liberating to embrace a new role, a new way of being. And let the old ways go forever. There's even a certain beautiful discipline in that, in letting go, in living the life you have right now and not wishing for the past (or the future). And that idea of letting go is something I'll be carrying with me from this movie for a long, long time.