For my applied theory post concerning the “Psychoanalytic Criticism,” many different Pop-Culture works came to mind. After a debate of my own, I chose to look at the film Black Swan. Certain aspects of the movie were disturbing and others showed the internal struggle of the main character, Nina. Reading Lois Tyson’s chapter about Psychoanalytic criticism really put this whole movie into perspective for me; Origins of the unconscious, core issues, the issue of sexuality, dream symbols, and some Lacanian psychoanalysis play a role in Black Swan.
Within the first five minutes of starting the film, origins of the unconscious are noticeable. Nina is having a dream that she is the white swan in the new production of Swan Lake. Her unconscious mind is telling the viewers of the film that she has an aspiration to become the supreme ballerina that she has always dreamt of being. This is also an example of feminine imagery because she is performing in a room. Nina also displays Desire of the Mother. At most all points in the movie Nina relies heavily on her mother (by calling her, living with her, pleasing her) and her mother relies on her too (by having Nina live there, by helping Nina succeed, knowing all things about Nina’s life).
Nina also has a fear of abandonment. It isn’t quite as evident in the movie until towards the end of the movie. When she messes up on stage and gets dropped, Nina chooses not to say that it is her fault that it has happened; rather she blames it on the male dancer that accompanied her. Once this has happened, Nina rushes to her dressing room to see that Lily is already getting ready to take her place as black swan because Lily feels as though Nina will mess up the ballet even more; Nina then stabs Lily, drags her into a closet and lets her die alone. At this point Nina’s fear of abandonment is the question “what did I do wrong?” because she’s choosing to repress what happened earlier. This foreshadows the conclusion of the movie when Nina realizes that the part has gotten to her so much that she stabs herself and dies on stage after finishing her Swan Queen role.
A few times throughout the movie Nina struggles with her sexuality. The premiere time is when she goes with Thomas back to his house after the party that announced Nina as the Swan Queen. Thomas asks Nina if she has engaged in sexual intercourse, when he realizes that she lied, he tells her to touch herself. The second time, her libido is channeled into Lily when they have intercourse in Nina’s room. This turns out to be a dream and poses the question that Tyson suggests as “What conscious and unconscious meanings and purposes do I express or enact in my sexuality?”(24).
Tyson describes condensation as “a dream image or event to represent more than one unconscious wound or conflict” (18). This is presented as the rash that is appearing on Nina’s back. Throughout the whole movie this never goes away, in fact, it becomes more obvious. There is one point in the film when Nina’s eyes turn red and she plucks a black twig like object from her back; It is then that she realizes the rash that has been forming is not just a plain rash, but it is the feathers for her wings when she performs the black swan. Although the viewer of the movie can see that she has wings, they are just a figment of her imagination. One of the last symbols in the movie is when she is rehearsing late one night and the lights shut off, what Nina sees is important because the role of being Swan Queen is dominating her life, and she cannot come back from losing herself.
Another aspect presented in Black Swan was Nina’s insecure/ unstable sense of self. A few times throughout the movie, Nina would be moving destinations and see herself in a different location and her reflection would be doing a different action. This happens on the subway, in a tunnel and one night when she’s rehearsing her reflection in the mirror does not do what she does, but acts on its own.
I think that the director of the film did mean to incorporate these aspects into the movie to show how serious people take their jobs and to show what happens to some. Any thoughts?