FASHION ON FILM • BLACK SWAN
by Jeremy Danté
beyond any form of beauty or fashion, the single most powerful element above all is that of reality, our actual living circumstance. far greater than the world of high end editorial, outside of the pages of vogue; i believe that we all have a greater purpose. we’re all waiting to breakthrough & become our accomplished selves- but what happens beyond that point of breakthrough? does the cycle redirect itself or does it end completely? is it possible to have a series of breakthroughs in one lifetime or are we each granted one true defining moment? who are you now & how does that give way to what you are destined to become? is the world around us blocking us from our destiny or are we standing in the way of ourselves? are these questions we sit & ask ourselves questions that live in the realm of the unknown? black swan, starring natalie portman & directed by darren aronofsky, is a visual journey & exploration of these questions. the film itself hosts an impressive set of acting talent & after watching, i was completely stunned, breathless & intensely inspired. a long time fan of natalie portman since her role in 1994’s léon: the professional, i’ve admired her ability to chose roles of depth & sophistication, especially considering that her film debut happened at the tender age of 12 years old. with costume designs by the mulleavy sisters, who are more widely referred to, in design, as rodarte; my initial fashion interest combined with my love for portman allowed my usual level of excitement for any film to increase. the mystique of the story line, the headlines from new york magazine about stunning designs inspired by swan ballerinas, the dark undertones of the plot through previews- it was all very chic & incredibly intriguing. in the days leading up to the release of the film, i had seen the film referred to as a ‘psychosexual thriller’ & tried to challenge my own perception to understand this contrast of two wildly aggressive & thoughtful genres. the film began with an intimate portrayal & close intersection of ballerinas & the sub-culture of ballet. the bending & contorting of human limbs with elegance & refined movement was combined with scenes of rigorous training, intense discipline, emotional destruction & impossible standards that are often applied to these performers, who are more like athletes than anything else.
the capitalization on the unattainable & impossibility of achieving perfection were focused on both poetically & profoundly throughout the film. i drew great personal attachment to the story, in identifying it’s symbolism & applying elements to my own life. a battle of inner strength versus fragility & hesitation made up most of the plot. resulting, ultimately, in a war of portman against herself; pitting light against dark, modesty against seduction, reality against sanity, control versus letting go & of course, good versus evil. psychologically, the script allowed the audiences’ mind to become shifted from reality over the course of the entire film. stylistically, we became caught up in the sheer simplicity & effortless grace of ballet minimalism. cleanly swept buns & meticulous up-dos were seen throughout as almost an embodiment of the ballerina sub-culture. from simple shrugs to portman’s white gown at her introductory gala event- the costumes were a key element in personifying the transformative elements of the film. with a large focus around the ballet classic, swan lake, the plot aligned with many swan related stories, writings & philosophies quite impressively. in the story of swan lake, we are familiarized with deception, manipulation & seduction by way of white swan versus black swan; which more directly is associated with portman’s character of nina sayers, as the swan queen. outside of the swan lake references, i found relativity to the ugly duckling; which is a widely known childhood story of transformation in itself- something small & unwanted going through a process of self actualization, only to blossom into a beautiful creature who, at the finale, spreads his wings proudly for all to admire. furthermore, i found the films most provocative elements were those found directly aligned to the black swan theory of nassim nicholas taleb.
scientifically, the black swan theory is identified as, ‘the disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology. the non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods & the psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.’ which, in simple terms means, undirected, unplanned events that affect our world more greatly than realized. while the film explores the idea & concept of the swan lake within swan lake, i am further compelled to raise the popular question; does art imitate life or does life imitate art? while the black swan theory is certainly not an art form, as much as it is a scientific theory, more specifically the theory is identified as an event of surprise, to the observer, that has major impact; which through rationalization could have been expected. three forms of criteria are seen: surprise incidents, impact & rationalization leading to explanation. in becoming familiar with taleb’s theory; it is profound to connect this scientific notion through it’s the performance of natalie portman in her black swan role as nina sayers. whether an intention of director darren aronofsky is as yet, unknown.
on a greater level of personalization, i found myself well acquainted with the concept of white swan versus black swan. before any form of branding, writing, image or song- i am an artist. the battle of your inner self & your destiny is one that may never end. at the climax of the film, portman appears in performance as the the swan queen, visually representing a transformative figure intended to be the black swan. in this performance, portman breaks through in dance & also visually, as digital effects allow her to take on a rapid paced suiting of a black swan with elegant wings that are applauded by a roaring ballet audience. i felt as though the black swan represents the fighting spirit, almost your destiny fighting to break free. we all struggle with the good versus bad, internally, whether mentally or emotionally or creativity versus destruction. this battle is very real as i have had the same battles with myself for years. the need to breakthrough, to break free & become what you know you’re capable of & to be recognized for it- that story, that script, that character & that symbolism has been my life.
whether a childhood fable, a golden globe nominee for best film or a ballet about swans in a lake; the reality of the film versus it’s impact of highly improbable & unplanned events is intellectually mind blowing. as the film ended with a white screen, revealing directing credit & traces of black feathers; the entire audience in the theatre sat in silence while remaining seated. the film, as a whole, was psychologically gripping & visually enchanting; as a film & representation of art, fashion, culture & creative expression- every person needs to see this film. upon entering 2011, my white swan has had it’s moment to shine throughout this year & the black swan is now clawing murderously, rupturing psychology to break free to a greater realm of artistry.