Black Swan
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for can be found here.

No. Black Swan is based on a screenplay co-written by screenwriters Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughlin. Producer Darren Aronofsky admits that the idea for the story came from his interest in understudies and the notion of being haunted by a double, as in The Double: A Petersburg Poem (1946), a novella by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky [1821-1881]. Black Swan began life as a screenplay called 'The Understudy' before it morphed into Black Swan. Aronofsky considers Black Swan to be a companionpiece to his 2008 film, The Wrestler.

Aspiring ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is chosen to dance the swan queen in the New York City Ballet company's production of 'Swan Lake'. She has no problem dancing the lead role of Odette, the white swan, but she finds it hard to evoke the passion and seductiveness required for the role of Odile, the black swan, until she meets her competitor Lily (Mila Kunis). Lily evokes in Nina the passion and seductiveness that is required for Odile, but the darkness goes even deeper...evoking a part of Nina that threatens to destroy her.

Swan Lake, composed by Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky [1840-1893], tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a white swan by the curse of the evil sorcerer von Rothbart. During the day she must be a swan and swim in a lake of tears. At night she is allowed to be a human again. The spell can only be broken if a virgin prince swears eternal fidelity to her. Prince Siegfried falls madly in love with Odette but is seduced by Odile, who is really Rothbart's daughter transformed into a double of Odette. At the end of the story, Odette and Siegfried commit suicide by jumping into a lake together.

Mostly. Portman took dancing lessons between the ages of 4-13 and resumed training a year before the filming of Black Swan even began. According to director Darren Aronofsky, there are 139 dance shots in the film. 111 are of Natalie untouched, and 28 are her dance double, Sarah Lane, mostly in wide shots involving complex en pointe work, such as fouettes (spins) and pique turns, and virtually all camera shots that focus below the waist on Nina's legs and feet. The two remaining shots required digital face replacement so the audience sees Portman's face instead of Lane's. Doing the math, Portman did about 80% of the dancing.

There are many such scenes, e.g., in the subway tunnel, the sex scene between Nina and Lily, the bathtub scene, the sex scene between Lily and Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), where Nina's face can be seen on someone else's body or Nina's reflection can be seen in a mirror but its movements are not following hers. These appearances represent Nina's DOUBLE (as she's known in the script), and they occur with increasing frequency as the Black Swan begins to take over. The idea is to signify the 'duality' between the two girls.

Yes. An early version (dated 10-5-2009) can be obtained here and a revised script (dated January 11, 2010) can be obtained here. It's interesting to compare the two scripts to see the changes that were made to and the scenes that were omitted from the original screenplay. For example, in the earlier script (June 2009), Lily doesn't show up until after Nina gets the part of the Swan Queen, and she looks exactly like Nina, leading some to conclude that Lily is not real. Also in the original script, Nina sleeps with Michael Brennan (renamed Thomas Leroy for the movie), and he does not tell her to go home and touch herself. The scene where Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) stabs herself with the fingernail file is not in the early script; neither are the vomiting scenes or Nina's knees turning into bird legs.

There are many different interpretations of it. It may symbolize Nina's fascination with the role of the Black Swan. Since Thomas suggested that she explore her own sexuality in order to find the Black Swan inside herself, making love to Lily would be the ultimate way to embrace the Black Swan. Another theory is that, since the scene exists only in Nina's mind, the sexual encounter between them is really about Nina coming to terms with her own sexuality, which has apparently been repressed for many years by her doting mother. A third theory is that Nina embraces a second personality, the Black Swan. In this theory the sexual scene would symbolize the clash of both personalities in one body. Or, it could be a combination of the latter two things.

How does the movie end?

Nina, as the White Swan, gets through the first scenes of the ballet okay but panics during the 'Dance of the Swans' when the faces on all the swans begin to look like hers, causing the Prince to drop her, which enrages Thomas. When the scene is over, she returns to her dressing room in tears and sees Lily seated at her vanity in costume for the Black Swan. Snottily, Lily offers to dance the Black Swan for her. Enraged, Nina yells, 'Leave me alone!' and smashes Lily (who has turned into the double) into a mirror, shattering it into bits. When the double tries suffocating her, Nina stabs her in the abdomen with a shard of mirror. She hides the body (who now looks like Lily again) in her bathroom and dresses for her turn as the Black Swan. Back onstage, Nina dances with abandon, wowing her partner as well as the audience. Suddenly, she begins to physically transform, her arms become black wings. As the audience gives her a standing ovation, Nina exits the stage, kisses Thomas passionately, and returns to her dressing room to change back into the dying White Swan, first covering up the blood on her floor with a towel. As she finishes with her makeup, she hears a knock at the door. It's Lily, alive and well, congratulating Nina on her amazing performance. When Lily is gone, Nina looks under the towel to find there is no blood. Suddenly, she becomes aware that she is bleeding from her abdomen and pulls out a shard of glass from the broken mirror. Despite her wound, Nina dances the last act until it becomes time for her to commit suicide. As she prepares to throw herself from the 'cliff', she looks out over the audience and sees her mother (Barbara Hershey), smiling and crying. As Nina falls onto the mattress below, the blood stain begins to widen. The audience erupts in thunderous applause. The rest of the dancers gather around her, and Thomas invites her to take her bows. 'My little princess,' he says, 'I always knew you had it in you.' Suddenly, Lily gasps, and the blood stain can be seen across Nina's entire abdomen. Thomas calls for help and asks Nina what she did. 'I felt it,' she replies. 'It was perfect.' The crowd continues to roar with applause as the screen slowly fades to white.

The most literal reading of the film is that, in the confrontation between Nina and Lily in the dressing room, Nina is really alone and it is herself that she stabs with the glass shard. This means that Lily is really alive at the end. Whether or not Nina actually dies is left unanswered. Thomas calls for help, and the screen slowly fades to white, leaving it up to the viewer to decide whether or not Nina survives.

This is a question that puzzles many viewers. There is no definitive answer, as any answer depends upon each viewer's interpretation of the movie. Some of the explanations that viewers have offered include: (1) Nina's wound was not as serious and it looked, at least shallow enough to allow her to dance; after discovering it, she taped it up and kept it from bleeding until her final act, (2) .Nina was bleeding moderately into her abdomen until the shard of glass was pulled out of the abdominal wall, essentially "undamming" the wound . (3) Nina hallucinated parts (or all) of the murder as well as the wound, (4) the fight scene between Nina and Lily was a metaphorical battle between herself as the White Swan and herself as the Black Swan, indicating a passage into a new state of her life where she has either embraced both sides of the swan or fallen completely into insanity.

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