Headscratchers: Black Swan

  • The Ending. I don't really care whether Nina died or not but I'm particularly disturbed by which scene are real and which are not.
    • The ending is actually pretty clear on what happened. Nina stabbed herself and imagined the whole thing with stabbing/fighting Lily and turning into a swan. She also imaged the sex scene and the fact that Lily was after her. Nina died at the end of the ballet, that much was very obvious. I don't understand why everyone is so confused about the ending, it really was not that hard to get.
      • Agreed, it is pretty clear it was all in Nina's head, the only scene that got me confused was the one with Beth stabbing herself, to later have revealed Nina had the boxcutter all along. I was left with the doubt if Nina had actually stabbed Beth, or if she was never actually at the hospital
      • The ending is perfectly ambiguous, as I'm sure it was intended to be. We're not supposed to know for sure what's real and what's not because our POV character is Nina, who is fucking crazy.
  • How could she dance ballet flawlessly with a deadly stab wound?
    • Adrenalin rush and shock. It's actually quite common that people don't realize they've been injured until later.
      • This is possibly a case of artistic license on Aronofsky's part. While it's well known that adrenalin and shock can be enough to, say, get a fatally wounded runner to the finish line of a race, that runner would be moving pretty clumsily. Nina might have had the raw strength to make it to the stage and keep trying, but coordination is a completely different thing from strength, and a dancer in shock would likely not be able to retain her balance for even a single spin.
      • The movie shows that Nina frequently cut herself to deal with stress, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that she could also deal with stabbing herself.
      • Her black self kills her white self to end her self-repression. The ending could either symbolise her rebirth as she reconciles the two or her death as she could not. Is she imagining Thomas calling for help or is it really happening? The whole thing is completely open to interpretation by the viewer, which is exactly what Darren Aronofsky intended.
      • The real question is, assuming that she did stab herself, how in the world could none of the other dancers notice? Her costume is white, and she's dancing, so the blood wouldn't exactly just trickle out subtly.
      • My personal interpretation was that the wound wasn't necessarily that bad, given the size of the piece of glass she pulled out of herself, but she did pull the piece out, which you're not supposed to do under those circumstances, and as she danced she tore things open further, which is why it was barely bleeding at first but the blood started spreading quite a bit quicker in the moments before the final jump.
    • Or maybe the whole dance was in her head and she just came out and fell over. Who knows?
  • Why is Nina the only one cast in this role? I know from experience how difficult that role is, and in real life Nina could have been seriously injured by its physical demands. The director should have cast one or two others to alternate the role, plus an understudy.
    • They did have an understudy for her - Lily.
      • Nina learns about the fact that she has an understudy at all way too late, meaning that it had been appointed really late and without her knowing.
      • She's an experienced professional dancer. Of course she knows she has an understudy! Doesn't mean she needs to know who it is.
    • What I want to know is why Lily was made the understudy if the role was originally going to be given to Veronica.
      • Thomas was lying. He had no intention of giving the part to Veronica, but he told Nina that he was because he was trying to piss her off. He knew they didn't get along, and thought that if he told Nina her rival had gotten the part, Nina would snap and show Thomas the passion he'd hoped she had inside.
  • The ballet director wants to put on an innovative rendition of Swan Lake. He has one dancer who's "perfect, if [he] was only casting the white swan" and another who truly embodies the black swan. And no one suggests splitting the highly difficult main role between the two performers?
    • From what I've read, it seems like Swan Lake is actually almost always now played with one ballerina doing both swans. So having two dancers would not only be different, it would still be legitimate.
    • There is a theory that Lily is really Nina's Tyler Durden, i.e., that Lily isn't real, but is rather just Nina's alternate personality. In this view, Thomas isn't trying to beat Nina into shape to play the black swan, he's just trying to get her black swan performance to be more consistent. That is, when the Lily personality is in control, she dances the black swan part perfectly; it's just that she's not always in control, and Thomas, of course, has no idea what's really going on in Nina's mind. He just observes that she clearly has the ability to play both parts, but that she is inconsistent about one.
    • Well the whole point of Swan Lake is that the same dancer plays both Odette and Odile. In the story Odile is meant to be an exact duplicate, impersonating Odette. If it were a film, it'd be a given that the same actress would play Odile as well. The director probably wants to emphasise the point that in real life, a woman is both the White and the Black Swan.
  • How on earth was Nina cast for the leading role at all? A woman so childish and insecure as her wouldn't have lasted a day in an elite dancing company. Ballet is extremely competitive.
    • As I saw it, Nina probably had more raw talent and dedication than any other ballerina in the company, but she lacked the self-confidence to achieve the level of principle. The director hoped that by challenging Nina with the Swan Queen role, she would develop fully into the next prima ballerina.
      • Raw talent which needs to be developed? She's too old for that, way past the ballet school. And if Nina is too pure to play both Odette and Odille, then simply give her another role. Not a seductress? Okay, here's your Gisele or Princess Aurora. Seriously, give her another role and save us a movie! This is simply not how the things work in ballet. In fact, my biggest problem with this movie is that it presents itself to be brutal, honest and realistic. Brutal? Sure it is (that feather growing? Ouch). Honest and realistic? Not so much. And I cannot suspend my disbelief exactly because of that. The director says that that's what real ballet is like, that's what life is like, but that's not true and I feel bullshitted.
      • Just repeat to yourself: "It's just a show, I should really just relax."
      • This film was not meant to be a documentary on the business of running a ballet company. It was a dramatic tale of a woman losing her mind. We have no way of knowing if anything in the film is actually supposed to have happened, or were just Nina's delusions. And you're worried about whether the film was realistic?
    • Thomas is giving Nina the criticism precisely because he knows she's perfect for the role. He knows that she has the talent and the potential; he just wants her to fully tap into it. She's the first dancer to replace Beth in the lead role, so again he wants her performance to be perfect. Essentially he feels that Nina is 99% of the way there and he's pushing her because he knows she can get everything spot on.
  • Why is Nina this insecure in front of people? Being insecure as a speaker, in yourself is one thing, but she can't handle being looked at neither by one old man or while being some distance away from a crowd. The director apparently forgot that ballerinas dance in skin-tight costumes in front of masses every night and half the time run around almost naked backstage on the night of a big performance. For a dancer it is natural to either enjoy the attention or to completely block out everyone around her/him.
    • Actually, some people find it easier to perform in front of a large crowd as opposed to a smaller group. Also, playing someone/something other than yourself can convince you that it isn't you that other people are ogling.
    • Not sure about the crowd, but the one old man was a perv who was masturbating in public while looking at her. Pretty sure even the most secure person would feel uncomfortable standing next to him.
      • But a secure person would follow the usual advice: ridicule him.
      • But she is not a secure person and you don't know how to act in that sort of situation till you've actually been there. I have actually been there and it is terrifying and I'm very secure relatively.
      • It's still a form of sexual misconduct; I'm not sure if it's legally considered sexual assault to openly masturbate in public, but it's damn sure a sexually aggressive gesture. Even the most secure person can be made to feel humiliated, dehumanized, objectified, and dirty, and Nina has been consistently abused and robbed of her agency of a person pretty much her whole life.
      • I can't believe whether Nina is secure or not is being brought into question when the dirty old man masturbated to her. That has nothing to do with feeling secure about yourself, why is this even being debated? The old man was a pervert and a jackass, Nina did about all she could by ignoring him. End of story.
  • Is it just me, or does the director treat his casting of the ballet as something unique? Swan Lake is almost always played by one dancer doing both the black and white swan, although in the earlier versions this wasn't always the case. So by casting one dancer as the Swan Queen, he is basically doing what 99% of the other Swan Lake performances are doing?
    • It wasn't the casting that was supposed to be unique, just the choreography and the arrangement. We didn't get to see enough of the ballet to see if it really was anything special.
      • He may have been referring to playing up the Madonna/Whore dichotomy with one dancer.
  • Would Lily have been allowed to perform with that massive tattoo uncovered? Honest question. I don't think I've ever seen a stage show where a tattoo is so visible.
    • In reality, no. She wouldn't be allowed on-stage without using special tattoo coverup first. But we saw her between acts and it was still visible, so either:
      A) They realized not everyone in the audience would know this, and didn't want people over-analyzing a lack of tattoo in a couple of shots.
      B) They just plain forgot.
  • Where are the dressers and the makeup people? Sure, it would have undermined the scenes in the dressing room where Nina had to be alone, but she's consistently shown entering her dressing room and being told to be out as another role in a short amount of time. Even in amateur stage productions, they have at least one person present for quick changes just in case something slows the performer down.
    • For the performance wasn't Nina assumed to be absent? Her mother had called and said she wouldn't be coming? So the make-up artists had done the swan make-up to Lily instead. I remember when Nina arrived, she sat down and started doing her own make-up. Maybe they didn't realise she was there until they saw her onstage?
  • Um...was Beth stabbing herself in the face real or not?
    • Doubtful, and it honestly seems more like Nina would have been stabbing herself rather than stabbing Beth. That nurse would have noticed something, right?
    • Probably not real. Otherwise wouldn't someone in the ballet company have heard about Beth being apparently attacked while in the hospital? And wouldn't the police or someone have called Nina in for a statement, since she was there to see Beth?
  • Everyone keeps going on about Nina having an eating disorder. WHY? What evidence is there to support this?
    • She's shown making herself sick in a toilet at one point, and tries to abstain from eating the cake her mother brought home.
    • Also, the costume lady taking her measurements mentions that she's lost weight. Nina is already (dangerously) rail thin and she's probably not working out that much more than usual.