Wednesday, 9 February 2011
I went to see Black Swan the other week, an exquisite performance from Natalie Portman and lots of psychological weirdness from director Darren Aronofsky (no surprise there if you have ever seen his films The Foutain, Pi, Requiem for a Dream... ). Portman’s character, Nina, is desperate to be chosen for the lead role(s) in Swan Lake, a desperation which practically oozes through her every pore. You can understand the sleazy art director’s reluctance to grant her the lead – how will this innocent and meek 'White Swan' make the transition into the wicked Black Swan? And so begins the intense and increasingly unhinged emergence of the White Swan’s dark ‘alternative’. From the beginning Nina is being chased by her ‘dark side’ and it eventually takes over her body and her mind, pulling her into a downward spiral of obsession for perfection.
The film brought home how all-consuming ballet could potentially become to young woman. They must at some point experience that desperate need to be the best, knowing they have a window of opportunity in their youth, and some of them must be tempted to hurl themselves through it head first into a crazy world of torturous contortions and pirouettes....and crazy body shapes. Natalie Portman had the body of a 12 year old in the film.
I found it interesting that Nina was technically brilliant, a perfectionist but so rigid with it; calculating every move that inhibited the real ‘wow’ factor that finally emerged when she let herself go (she let herself go a tad too much, her character didn’t do things by half).
I think it’s the same for any art form... if an artist is too conscious of where their brush stroke should lie, if they practiced every shape and line until it appeared absolutely perfect to look at I think it would convey flatness, like the deepest thing they poured into it was a vibrant hue.
As a writer it’s easy to sometimes get too bogged down in constructing a perfect sentence – as soon as you think about constructing that perfect sentence then you just know that it isn’t going to be natural or free. There is a big element of having to let yourself go in writing, to tap into some unconscious part of your brain that doesn’t censor. You’re told to think of your audience if trying to write a story or novel for a certain market. But if you start to think too much about your audience then you start to think about all the people in your life who might read this and what they will make of it...
Some of the pieces of writing that I’ve been happiest with are ones where I let go, tap into a different (darker?) side of my personality. Although of course it shouldn't be 'me' at all as I’m getting into the minds of my characters and it’s weird how they can begin to take over...like I have many ‘alternatives’ just waiting to come alive on paper. And if that makes me sound a little nuts then I’m sure I’m in good company!
I wonder if Natalie Portman is going to wake up one day in a years time, look at her baby and partner and think to herself...who the hell are they and how did I get here? (you do have to wonder what that gruelling dance/diet/filming schedule, awards buzz and pregnancy hormones must have done/be doing to her mindset just now...)