One of the most popular films in theaters right now is BLACK SWAN, starring Natalie Portman. Our special contributor, Kartina Richardson, who blogs at mirror.org, visits the costume room at the Boston Ballet to tell us why Portman’s character spends so much time in the bathroom.
In BLACK SWAN, Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a ballerina whose own opposing identities are at war – and Nina's battlefield is the bathroom, the last truly private space in her world.
Trapped under the eyes of her mother and fellow ballerinas, Nina's bathroom moments are her only escape from public scrutiny. For many people, bathrooms offer the same sanctuary as we switch from public to private persona. But even when we’re solitary, we’re not always alone.
Freud said there are three components to our psyche. I say there are four. These are:
- the Imp, the mischievous problem-causing self that sabotages all of our efforts towards happiness
- the Baby, this is the persona that's stressed because of the problems the Imp has created
- the Housekeeper, this is the persona that mediates between all of the others.
And then there's the Center. This is the calm transcendent self that sits peacefully behind all of the rest. It's way, way, way deep down, but depending on how powerful and cunning your personas are, things can get dangerous.
In this great scene, Nina's housekeeper and Imp battle. Realizing she's been scratching, Nina's Housekeeper franticly clips her nails. Then Portman’s desperate expression abruptly changes to calm and mischievous. The Imp sabotages, and the Housekeeper cleans up the mess.
The origins of Nina's war of identities isn't explained and it doesn't need to be. Facts would wrench the film out of the realm of the surreal where it belongs. With a director like Aronofsky a glance between two characters, or two personas, is all it takes to know the deal. In Nina’s case the deal is tragic. Two broken identities have to destroy each other in order for the center to find peace.
Yeah, I love BLACK SWAN. I think it's gorgeous and gloriously nutso. It was on my top ten list for last year.
I think this is the first time we’re going to disagree.
Very sad. It had to happen sometime.
Everything beautiful must come to an end, at some point.