Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a young dancer in a prestigious New York City ballet company, lives with her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer. The company is preparing to open the season with Swan Lake.
The director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), has to cast a new principal dancer after forcing Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) into retirement. Leroy wants the same ballerina to portray the innocent, fragile White Swan as well as her dark, sensual twin, the Black Swan.
Nina auditions for the part, performing flawlessly as the White Swan, but not quite able to emulate the characteristics of the Black Swan. Although Nina does not do well during her audition, she approaches Thomas and asks him to reconsider her as the lead role.
Thomas tells her she is the ideal dancer to cast as the White Swan, but she lacks the passion needed to correctly portray the Black Swan. When Thomas forcibly kisses Nina, she bites him, convincing him to cast her as the Swan Queen. An intoxicated Beth angrily confronts Thomas and Nina.
Thereafter, Nina begins to witness strange happenings. Thomas, meanwhile, becomes increasingly critical of her frigid dancing and advises her to stop being a perfectionist and to lose herself in the role. Thomas points to Lily (Mila Kunis), another dancer in the company, whom he describes as lacking Nina’s flawless technique but possessing an uninhibited quality that Nina has not shown.
The relationship between the two dancers is tense because of Lily’s indiscretions, but Lily invites Nina to a night out. Nina is hesitant at first but decides to go against her mother’s wishes. At a restaurant that evening, Lily offers Nina a capsule of ecstasy to help her loosen up. Though reassured its effects will only last a few hours, Nina turns it down. Lily later slips it into her drink at a nightclub while she is absent. Nina returns home late, fights with her mother, barricades herself in her room, and has sex with Lily until Lily smothers her with a pillow.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Year of Release: 2010
Character to watch: Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?