The Black Swan is a psychological thriller that documents a prima ballerina’s descent into madness. Nina Sayers is a dancer at a New York City ballet company. Her mother is a very controlling, ex-ballerina whose career ended when she became pregnant with Nina. Having forced his current prima ballerina into retirement, Thomas Leroy, the company's director, is searching for someone worthy enough to play the Swan Queen in his next production. Despite his doubts about her ability to successfully dance the role of the Black Swan, he gives the role to Nina. However, Nina fears Lily is trying to steal the Swan Queen role from her especially when Leroy makes Lily Nina’s understudy. As they move further into the production, Nina's strive for perfection with the White and Black Swan roles causes a slow descent of her mental state. By using a variety of expressionistic techniques, Director Darren Aronofsky uncovers Nina’s worsening psychosis. (Huggo)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an “anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors you feel compelled to perform” (Segal and Smith, “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Symptoms, Behavior, and Treatment”). This disorder occurs when the brain becomes obsessed with a specific action or thought. Uncontrollable, recurring thoughts and images, known as obsessions, can take attention away from more important matters. Compulsions consist of actions and rituals that one is compelled to carry out multiple times. (Segal and Smith, “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Symptoms, Behavior, and Treatment”) Nina's obsession is perfection. She states repeatedly that she “just wants to be perfect” (Aronofsky). Her compulsion is practice. No matter how long she practices with the company in a day she still practices constantly at home in front of a mirror trying to achieve the perfection that her brain is seeking.
To emphasize Nina’s OCD, Aronofsky exploits sound effects. The movie opens with Nina dancing as the White Swan. The ballet cuts out and we see Nina waking up in her bed. She sits up and immediately begins stretching and warming up her ankles to begin practice. As Nina rolls her ankles and alternates between pointing and flexing her feet, the audience can distinctly hear the crack of every bone. Stretching her ankles before getting out of bed shows her obsession, perfection will not come without constant practice in Nina’s obsessive mind. Aronofsky exploits sound here by eliminating all background noises so the only sound we hear is the repetitive cracking which sounds painful. Viewers imagine all the pain she has endured because this obsession. (Scene one)
Leroy enters the studio unannounced to begin his search for the Swan Queen. He taps several girls on the shoulder and instructs that the girls he did not tap should report for their audition. Nina is first up in the audition for the role. Her White Swan is flawless but she fails to truly let go of...