Professor Vicki Schwab
The Black Swan Evaluation Essay
Perfection is a dream chased by many, but only a few ever achieve it. More often than not, reaching that level of flawlessness requires great sacrifice. “The Black Swan”, directed by Darren Aronfsky, is a captivating psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet. The Movie received high ratings and Natalie Portman, who played the lead role of Nina, received praise for performing a majority of the dance scenes herself without much help from a stunt double. The real controversy comes a week after the movie is available on DVD when Portman’s stunt double, Sarah Lane, claims that it was actually she who did the majority of the dancing. According to Lane, Portman’s dramatic transformation into a ballerina – a story firmly at the center of her successful Oscar campaign- was not as impressive as the public was led to believe. “I mean, from a professional dancer’s standpoint, she doesn’t look like a professional ballet dancer at all and she can’t dance in pointe shoe. And she cannot move her body; she’s very stiff,” says Lane. (Katrandjian) She claims that they [the directors and producers] only wanted for Portman to win an Oscar, and that’s their reason for falsely claiming that Portman danced. Otherwise it would not have been that effective of a movie. Others claim that it is not the dancing that won Portman an Oscar, but the way she portrayed an innocent, fragile, and sheltered adult-child who morphs into something perfect and unrecognizable at a fatale expense.
“Black Swan” stars Natalie Portman as Nina Seyers, a featured dancer who is casted as the Swan Queen in the production “Swan Lake”. Nina is a quiet girl with an innocent demeanor, but also has hallucinations which are why her mother keeps her confined. She strives for perfection, but in order to get the part as the swan queen, she must show herself capable of playing the black swan. The black swan part requires her to not only “losing herself” but to be “seductive” in the dance. The audience is able to see the transformation of Nina throughout the movie. Nina’s life is a parallel to the production in which she is dancing. She is pure like the white swan, but later transforms into the polar opposite. She becomes the black swan towards the end of the movie and achieves perfection but only in death. Nina has a thirst for perfection, and it is this thirst that takes her to the edge and ultimately out of her innocence and into adulthood. Jen Chaney, a publisher for the Washington Post, noted “What impressed me the most about Portman’s work in “Black Swan”- and, I, suspect, most critics and Oscar voters- was the way she convincingly portrayed a fragile young woman descending into madness. The dance part of it never factored into my assessment of her performance…” (Chaney). Elizabeth Vargas, an anchor on Good Morning America, hosted an interview with Sarah Lane and others concerning the controversy. Vargas asked Jess Cagle, managing editor of entertainment weekly, “Do you think that any of the people that voted for Natalie for best actor for the Oscars would not have voted for her had they known that she didn’t do all the dancing for the movie?” Cagle replied “I can guarantee that it would definitely hurt Natalie Portman, and there was a lot of great dancing that Sarah Lane did that enhanced this performance and helped Portman win an Oscar.” (Natalie). The way that a stunt double works is that the director would cast someone of similar height and weight and they would dance in that scene, and later they would digitally graft the face of the actor/actress onto the body. Portman’s face was superimposed onto Lanes body through special effects called “face replacement” in crucial dance scenes to make it appear as if it were Portman performing the sophisticated moves. The stunt double signs a contract that explains that she might not be featured...