Black Swan! Spoilers! Opinionation!

I have seen Black Swan!
And I have major issues! With the way the movie portrays Ballet Costumes! Clearly the ladies of Rodarte don’t know thing one about ballet, because Thing One is: no textured details around tutu waists! For two reasons! Reason A: aesthetics. Bulk at the waist creates a bulky waist. (I mean, that’s a no duh, right?!) Reason 2 and most importantly: a major contact point in partnering is the waist. The male dancer holds her waist to lift her, turn her, catch her, and how’s he gonna do all that with a bunch of fluff and sharp edges in the way? It’s justplain dangerous and irresponsible! And furthermore, Rant rant Rant Rant rant rant Rant rant-

-ok, I’m just going to stop myself there because I’m actually trying to make a different point:
No matter how valid my complaints based on my expertise in the field may be, they have Nothing To Do With The Movie.
Likewise, People of Ballet, complaints you may have about the unrealistic way the movie portrays the world of ballet to outsiders may be totally valid as they are based on real experience in the field, but they have Nothing To Do With The Movie.
(oh snap, see what I did there?)
It’s a movie.
Like all good movies, it’s not really about the surface material.
Let’s look at Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, as an example. The Hurt Locker is set in the Iraq War. There are tons of war details which I’m sure one could argue are inaccurate, and may give a negative impression of Iraq, or the American Army, or bomb squads, or war in general, but- the movie is not really about war, it’s about much deeper stuff.
I saw it as a metaphor about addiction to risk, other people probably got other things out of their viewing, but the point is, the director is working through an idea. The world of war best allowed her to get her idea across.
Likewise, the world of professional ballet allowed Aronofsky to work through his idea.
I saw infantilism, really nicely summed up with the fingernail scissors, -I mean, you only use those things on babies-;fear of maturity as showed by both the sexual anxiety and the expulsion of the beautiful-but-older dancer; paranoia, not just in the constant watching eyes of Nina’s mother, coworkers, mirror, and audience but also in the excellent way the camera would chase after her from a viewpoint right behind her bun, practically predator-cam style, and some other ideas I’ll have to roll around in my head some more, like is the bloody ending referencing that classic horror movie theme of sex equals death? It the wound a hymen reference? Her first time is her last time?
I have read a lot of reviews expressing worry that Black Swan will give the general public a bad impression of professional ballet, to which I say no, it will give the general public a bad impression of Crazy Ass Whacked-Out Ultra-Perfectionists, no matter what profession.

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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13 Responses to Black Swan! Spoilers! Opinionation!

  1. Janet says:

    I’ve thought a lot about going to this movie. I just don’t feel like getting grossed out. Also, Swan Lake is one of my favorites and I don’t want to screw up my memories of it. As for baby fingernail scissors, they are really handy for my tender skin and funky toenails. But that is just too much information.
    Love your blog, and would like more information on tutu construction. Is Italian silk tulle the best for the “floating effect” of the Willis gowns in Giselle act 2?

    • This movie has some gross-out moments, for sure.
      As far as screwing up Swan Lake, don’t let that stop you from seeing the movie, the shots are mostly very close on Nina, increasing the in-her-head-ness of the story.
      And about the fingernail scissors- would you allow another person to use them on you? Scary!
      A reader introduced me to, which is a great resource for instructional books, supplies, they even do tutu workshops. All kinds of fun things on their site, and they can probably advise you better on specifics. The romantic tutu I made had four layers: outer three were silk tulle, each gathered individually, base layer was a slightly heartier polyester tulle, which had just enough body to hold the skirt a tiny bit away from the legs.

  2. Andre says:

    My impression of the movie is that it is a deconstruction of the Swan Lake story. See how it opens literally with the prologue, and the ending echoes what happens in the Swan Lake after the protagonist achieves and then loses his/her idee fixe, the role of the Swan Queen. Siegfried is the Swan Queen role, she’s obviously Odette, Lily is Odile, mom is the Queen mother (who’s forever trying to fix her up with her man/role), Thomas is Rothbart (who tries to transform her in many ways), and thank goodness there’s no jester!

    If this is true, then it’s also interesting that it’s Swan Lake told from Odile’s perspective. But I wish he had done more with the story because I don’t think he said anything new about it, other than maybe a slight foray into a Wicked-like plot device of showing the viewers the backstory of Odile/Odette.

    There’s also something in there about the Siegfried and Odile being two sides of the same coin that I can’t quite put into words yet — her confusion for who gets the role and what she does in her dressing room as a result of her confusion is like Siegfried confusing Odette for Odile and suffering the consequences.

    I didn’t like the movie because I thought it was nihilistic and destructive in a pointless way, but I like that it is thought-provoking. I was also surprised to see many young people (like mid 20s) in the theater for such a heady (no pun intended) movie.

  3. Pingback: Black Swan News Roundup & Poster Promo Results

  4. Kim says:


    I think your take on the movie being a deconstruction of Swan Lake’s story is a really interesting one – one I haven’t heard before, but it makes sense. Also, there are a lot of young people (mid-twenties, like me) who enjoy a good, heady story – whether it be portrayed via movie, novel, radio, what have you. We’re not all vapid morons.

    Black Swan has actually inspired me to become an adult beginner – I looked past the story of Nina herself, saw the beauty and incredible strength/physicality in the artform (especially in Mila Kunis’ empassioned dancing) and thought to myself, “I just might be able to do this”. I am a musician who plays only for the soul of the music (technique be damned, my music sounds good because I put myself in it) and I hope to be able to do the same with dance. Wish me luck!

  5. Read a few reviews that point out that much of the horror is so exaggerated that with just a tiny change in tone Black Swan could have been comedic. Gotta agree! In fact just the other day was giggling with a friend about the hilarity and grossness of Nina’s legs going backwards like swans’ legs. So awful, so funny!

  6. flyingwind66 says:

    I rather enjoyed the movie, I like psychological thrillers in general and the impression I got from the movie is that it’s not about the ballet… it could have been about a soccer player or a violinist.

    When I saw clips of the movie and Natalie’s dancing I cringed a bit at her lack of turnout etc. but when I was actually ‘watching’ watching the movie in its entirety… I didn’t notice these things at all… I was watching a movie, not a ballet and I thought it was a very excellent movie.

  7. The most horrifying moment in this movie?
    When she blames her partner for her fall.
    Truly shocking, I think I gasped out loud.

  8. And while I’m here, I’d like to give a shout out to Amy Westcott, the costume designer of Black Swan.
    You know, the one who researched and created the look for the rehearsal clothes, the pink coat, all the things that help us get a feeling for who Nina is, who her mom is, who the people in the corps are before they even open their mouths or pas de bourré.
    She did an excellent, amazing job, and the Adult Beginner is annoyed that those fashion sisters are getting all the hype.

  9. mladen says:

    i have to agree. black swan was the turning point in my deciding to do ballet (and i’m a 29-yo guy, never danced before, and according to the book you cited in one of your posts, not nearly tall enough). it is an intense film but not for one second did i felt it gave a bad impression of ballet, just the opposite, i got the sense that it is an art worthy of one’s obsessions.


    p.s. keep up the good work, i’m enjoying your posts, even the girly, what-to-wear stories.

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