I caught The Black Swan more than a year after its Oscar win. It was one of those TV premieres.
Movies about dreams and ambitions are always captivating. Black Swan is no different. That said, it is also the kind of movie only those who understand the deep, overpowering emotions that ambition creates, can appreciate. Creative ambition, as the movie portrays, is something that can drive anyone to almost persecutionist perfection.
If you have ever had a burning desire, a desire so powerful that you would either have it or let yourself be condemned by its absence, then this is the movie for you. And Natalie Portman depicts it with all the vulnerability that comes with such passion.
In the beginnning of the movie, you see her innocent attempts at just securing a position for herself in the ruthless world of ballet. She is not trying to topple anyone, she just wants to be one among the many stars. But is she taking over from the reigning and aging queen? When she finally does, you see how deep a cut, the desire to win can make.
Most of us start out like Natalie’s character. We strive through the initial parts of our life just trying to be a new person, just us. Then we see someone who we feel is better at being us than we are or someone who we feel is where we would like to see ourselves. Its then that the downfall begins. You first strive to be something more, anything more. You have to shed inhibitions and any thoughts of who you thought you were, its like a painful deflowering. To be more, some emulate, some counter strike, some vitiate and some, they believe. The ones who believe, they are the rare ones. Most of us end up emulating, some to good effect, others to disastrous.
Now don’t take me wrong, emulating in itself is many a times a good thing. No hard feelings there. But where is Portman’s character? She is done emulating the moment she has achieved some amount of recognition. Now what she wants is to be better than anyone ever has been. This is ambition, its almost like greed. It never ends. You want more and more and you are ready to punish yourself to any length, just to be able to look in the mirror and smile the day you succeed. The film however dwells on the dark aspect of this ambition. How soul destroying it could be to want something so bad that you would do anything to get it. How when your life is all about just having that one thing, nothing else matters.
It is an exalted feeling, this deep, passionate ambition. And yet it is the most disturbing, because anything that has the power to make you deeply happy in life has the power to make you equally distraught when its absent. It can tease you, it can be that forever dangling carrot called ‘If only’. You could take the plunge and catch hold of the rope or you could stand at the precipice forever gazing wistfully, or you could take the plunge and fall down forever. Something about that movie is so haunting and relatable. Worth a watch again sometime.