i bought black swan today on blu-ray. there’s something i’ve been thinking about since mr. mcg and i saw the film in the theater. the simple conclusion of my musings is: hey… there’s a buncha shiny surfaces in this here movie!
the – relatively – more thought-out conclusion of my musings comes from the first 20ish years of my life spent, in one way or another, dancing:
90% of a dancer’s life is spent in front of a mirror. mirrors are floor-to-ceiling in every dance studio in the world. this in no great revelation. dancer’s need to see what they are doing and how well they are doing it. but here’s the thing… to a dancer, the mirror is not merely a source of reflection, but a tool and, peculiarly, a means of dissociation.
most people look in a mirror to confirm or affirm the reality of their ‘self’: this is what i look like with my hair down. this is how my clothes fit me. i have more freckles this summer than i did last summer.
when a dancer looks in a mirror, she sees something outside her ‘self.’ there is certainly a correlation between a dancer’s physical self and her mirror image, but it is not definitive. the dancer knows that if she angles her torso a bit further downstage and softens the bend in her elbows, the reflection will follow and she – the mirror dancer – will improve her body-lines and the accuracy of her movements. the mirrror image is informed by the dancer’s supernatural ability to control her body, but it is not the dancer herself.
through the mirror, a dancer in the corps de ballet sees how she is a part of the whole. she uses it to lose her individual identity for the betterment of the choreography, the company and the performance. a soloist sees how she is apart from the whole and how the singularity of her performance is about the perfection of individuality.
but, i dare say, very few dancers look in the studio mirror and exclaim to themselves, “hey, look! i have more freckles this summer than i did last summer.”
it seems to me, then, that a story about a dancer spiraling into pathological dissociation should be chock-a-block with pretty, shiny surfaces.
am i reading too much in to the symbolism and meaning of the film? probably. do i care? not a bit.