Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black Swan Terrified Me Or Really, You Guys, I Swear This Is Relevant

Black Swan got out around 9:30. It’s 10:22 and after driving home and letting Macey outside, my hands are still shaking [I wrote this post on Thursday night, for the record]. This could be from the zero degree weather, but that’s not entirely it: Black Swan scared the crap out of me. Seriously.

For those unfamiliar with it, Black Swan is the story of a ballerina, Nina, who gets the lead of playing the role of Swan Queen in the ballet Swan Lake. When a new ballerina, Lily, shows up, she becomes paranoid that her role is at risk and pretty much goes psycho. Visit the amazon page and check out the editorial reviews for a more eloquent description. As Nina goes crazier, the intense personalities of these characters are amplified: the mother becomes more controlling, Lily grows more wild and Thomas more sexual. The movie is full of graphic content that is violent, sexual and overall disturbing. Have I mentioned that I was all by myself in the theater? I had to freak out all by myself. Throughout the entire film, I was convinced that some psycho ballerina would sprint in and gouge my eyes out in an unnaturally cruel and unusual fashion. I know watching stuff you know will be disturbing and experiencing absolute terror is an essential part of life, but this was almost a bit too graphic for me. The cinematography, costumes and make-up are all beautiful and the character dynamics are incredibly interesting. Black Swan is a fantastic and thought-provoking movie, looking back on it afterwards. However, I was honestly too horrified and disturbed to enjoy watching the film.

Sometimes I have similar experiences with literature. Let’s use The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway as an example, which I read as part of a class called The Jazz Age during my senior year of college. For those who haven’t read much literature of the era, let me let you in on a little secret: by and large, it’s pretty depressing. I really enjoyed discussing the literature in class, but let me tell you, reading that many sad books in a row got old kind of quickly. Eventually, each time I picked up a new novel for that class I would just think, “Oh great, another well-written yet sad story about male impotence, the effects of the war, and good things used to be. Let’s get this over with.” I will admit, there were sometimes undertones of hope and yes, I sound a bit closed-minded here. But still, I felt like a lack of hope and over-arching theme of “things are going downhill and they won’t get better” played a big role in these novels, and I understand that they are deep reflections on the era and I can appreciate that, but I am an optimist. I believe the best is yet to come and that the world is full of beauty and wonderful people. Sorry if it’s cheesy, but that’s how I feel. I I think if school had given me more time to read lighter books in between I might not have felt this way. Or maybe next time I pick up a Jazz Age era book I’ll still find that it’s still wonderfully written but just too sad for me to enjoy.

Even though I’m posting this on Saturday and still checking under my bed for psycho ballerinas before I drift off, some good has come out of me seeing Black Swan without another human presence to console me. I am finally able to explain how I sometimes feel about books and movies: even if it’s beautiful, if it makes me fear for my life or depresses me excessively, at the end of the day, I will probably not enjoy experiencing it. Instead, I’ll say, “Black Swan had intriguing cinematography and beautiful costumes. Unfortunately, it made me fear for my life, so no, I will not watch that movie with you.”


  1. This was a great post and very thought provoking

    I just saw Black Swan and I really enjoyed it. However, I am a horror movie fanatic so not a lot bothers me...HOWEVER, there were some little things in this movie that were very disturbing. I was very squeamish with the whole nail thing.

    The only book that I can remember offhand that had the same effect was Mystic River. It was so dark and upsetting that sometimes I wish I had never read it.

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