Analysis of the Movie Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky: A Tragic Story of Self-Destruction

970 (2 pages)
Download for Free
Important: This sample is for inspiration and reference only

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan is a heart-wrenching and spine-chilling horror film starring Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers and Mila Kunis as Lily. Nina is a dedicated 28 years old ballerina who lives with her obsessive and controlling mother, Erica Sayers (Barbara Hershey). When the artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) announces that he is looking for a dancer who embodies both the White Swan and the Black Swan to star in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Nina is determined to play the role. Nina encapsulates the White Swan-- fragile, disciplined, and innocent.

However, Thomas exclaims that Nina does not have the qualities of the Black Swan-- confident, daring, and sensual. Nina is too obsessed with the idea of being perfect. Thomas believes that Lily, a newcomer who Nina is simultaneously captivated and threatened by, flawlessly captures the essence of the Black Swan. Slowly, Nina and Lily develop a toxic relationship that lures out the ‘Black Swan’ in Nina and pushes her to the brink of madness. Although Thomas and Erica contribute to Nina’s descent into madness, ultimately, the grim reckoning of the film is the result of Nina’s own monstrosity. Nina’s destructive relationship with herself, stemming from her obsession with perfection, creates Lily, the ultimate monster that is born of the mind.

Nina is under a lot of pressure from both her mother and Thomas, but neither of them put as much pressure on her as she does on herself; the majority of the conflict that Nina has is within herself. Nina holds herself to impossibly high standards, failing to realize that perfection is unachievable. Nadine Kaslow, the vice-chair of the department of psychiatry at Emory University and psychologist to the Atlanta Ballet, remarks that the ballet world is “all about perfection and you can never be perfect… but the demand for it is off the charts” (James).

The ballet industry is an extremely competitive industry where many women are fighting for a few available roles, resulting in young women being under an immense amount of pressure. The cutthroat nature of the industry is evident in the film when Beth was forced by Thomas to retire early and later aggressively confronted Nina because she replaced her. Rather than congratulating Nina for her achievement, Beth accused Nina of having an inappropriate relationship with Thomas.

Nina is in a cruel industry where many women tear each other down rather than offer support. Dr. Steve Lamberti, professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, observes that “Natalie Portman’s character was involved in a highly stressful competition, she had conflicted relationships with her mother and with her understudy, and she was the object of sexual advances by her director… Any one of these issues alone would be stressful, but experiencing all of them at once could be emotionally devastating particularly for a young woman who is somewhat naive and sheltered” (James). Nina is overly self-critical and will do anything to be ‘perfect. ’ Nina attaches irrational importance to the notion of perfection; she can never meet her own unrealistic expectations. Nina also has an excessive need for approval from other people, being surrounded by overly demanding and manipulative people whom she can never satisfy leaves her feeling overwhelmed, troubled, and worthless (Curran).

No time to compare samples?
Hire a Writer

✓Full confidentiality ✓No hidden charges ✓No plagiarism

Nina: I just want to be perfect (Aronofsky).

But Nina, perfection does not exist.

Gordon Flett Ph. D. warns that socially-prescribed perfectionism is exceptionally destructive to mental health and is associated with depression and many other mental illnesses is because it combines pressure with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness (Benson). Nina’s obsession with perfection, but failure to achieve it, results in a destructive relationship with herself which can lead to several mental illnesses. Nina’s hallucinations, delusions, vomiting in the toilet, self-harm, emotional instability, and hesitation before eating a grapefruit display certain symptoms of several mental illnesses. For example, anorexia and bulimia nervosa, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and paranoid schizophrenia (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

The correlation between perfectionism and Nina’s array of mental illnesses is especially apparent through her eating disorders. Nina’s frequent trips to the bathroom to throw up, hesitation to eat a cake, and her satisfied grin when she was told that she lost weight are all indicative of her eating disorder. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Cynthia M. Bulik finds that perfectionism makes a person more susceptible to eating disorders. The findings from the study demonstrate that concern over mistakes, a subscale of the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, is associated with exceptionally higher ratios for anorexia and bulimia nervosa, and doubts about actions are associated with anorexia and bulimia nervosa, as well as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobia (Bulik). The combined pressure from others, the cutthroat industry, and mostly from herself makes it difficult for Nina to love herself. Nina repeatedly describes Beth as “perfect, ” and attempts to become Beth by stealing her belongings. Nina’s internal battle with herself drives her to wish to become anybody but herself; her strong desire to change who she is to become perfect is reflected through Lily.

Thomas: Perfection is not just about control it is also about letting go (Aronofsky).

Yes, let go Nina, but do not let go too much. It is a slippery slope.

As a result of Nina’s destructive relationship with herself, she is slowly letting go of her old self while also constructing another self, Lily. Lily, the Black Swan, is the ultimate monster that Nina constructs internally. Nina’s transformation to the Black Swan is catalyzed by her mind, demonstrating the interconnectedness between the body and the mind. Beyond the film, the close link between the brain and the body is evident in cases of pseudocyesis. Pseudocyesis is a medical condition in which a patient believes that she is pregnant, displays all the typical signs and symptoms of pregnancy, but is not truly pregnant (Yadav).

You can receive your plagiarism free paper on any topic in 3 hours!

*minimum deadline

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below

Copy to Clipboard
Analysis of the Movie Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky: A Tragic Story of Self-Destruction. (2021, February 22). WritingBros. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
“Analysis of the Movie Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky: A Tragic Story of Self-Destruction.” WritingBros, 22 Feb. 2021,
Analysis of the Movie Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky: A Tragic Story of Self-Destruction. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 Jun. 2024].
Analysis of the Movie Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky: A Tragic Story of Self-Destruction [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Feb 22 [cited 2024 Jun 24]. Available from:
Copy to Clipboard

Need writing help?

You can always rely on us no matter what type of paper you need

Order My Paper

*No hidden charges