When I first watched Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film, Black Swan, I immediately knew that it was the kind of film that required multiple viewings. Naturally, I went ago to the theater and also watched it aacquire before buying a DVD copy which I have actually considering that worn out through repetitive viewings. Babsence Swan is a dense and also layered film, via so a lot to emphasis on: the design template of doubles and doppelgangers, the prominence of mirrors, the way the plot matches the story of Swan Lake, the meticulously crafted visuals, and also the film’s obsession via various expressions of femininity.

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However, it wasn’t till I took a class concentrating on Animals in Cinema that I realized this film faces a woman’s literal transdevelopment into a swan. Nina’s (Natalie Portman) transformation into a swan neatly matches up through French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and also Felix Guattari’s idea of “becoming-animal”, wherein a huguy violently and also painfully becomes an animal, in a transition ameans from their previously established identification.

In Deleuze and also Guattari’s book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and also Schizophrenia, they outline the principle of “becoming-pet,” which they developed to define the procedure of human transformation into another species. Becoming-pet is not necessarily a straightforward principle yet begins to make sense as soon as used to functions of art such as Black Swan. The concept focuses on the process of becoming, fairly than on the animal come to be. Gerald L Bruns writes in New Literary History that Deleuze and Guattari generally improvised concepts — such as becoming-animal — that avoid clocertain and also resolution. Becoming-animal is a process through no conclusion, and instead of focusing on past or present, prior to or after, it pulls in both directions at the exact same time. It is a motion from unity to intricacy, and from organization to anarchy. The humale topic is swept away, and the topic no longer occupies the realm of stcapability however is instead nomadic and restless.


Becoming-pet is not merely resemblance or imitation, however rather, it is a human existing in the area in between humale and animal. Imitation of an animal’s physical habits and qualities is an completely various phenomenon, one that is a lot more simplistic than what Deleuze and also Guattari refer to. “Imitation” means playful mimicry, but Deleuze and Guattari refer to a procedure of literally altering one’s whole identification. Deleuze and also Guattari create that this is a procedure of “growth, propagation, occupation, and also contagion” wherein one’s identity is radically transdeveloped, and one no longer has actually a fixed identity, yet rather one that is constantly changing and being renegotiated.

In Babsence Swan, Nina renegotiates her whole self and all of her relationships when she enters the procedure of becoming-swan. Nina enters into this process to leave behind the rigidly identified identification in order to end up being an anarchic being through no fixed place in culture. Nina’s identity has been shaped by her mom (Barbara Hershey) and also the means she infantilizes Nina and also treats her prefer a little girl, as well as the truth that she is a ballerina who feels she have to physically and spiritually condevelop to what a “perfect” dancer must be. She speaks softly and is incredibly shy, she virtually specifically wears pink, white, and baby blue, and also her room is decorated via butterflies and also stuffed animals. She is exceptionally thin and also bacount eats anypoint, and also spends every one of her time working exceptionally hard at ballet rehearsals. When she starts to come to be a swan, she radically transcreates and moves amethod from the rigidly characterized principle of “Nina”.


However, Nina’s transformation is complex by a number of aspects. First of all, Nina seems to be the only one who is aware of the transformation. The scenes wright here she begins to exhilittle bit the physical features of a swan — feathers, webbed feet, a long neck, red eyes, legs that bend backward — are framed as hallucicountries that disshow up quickly afterward. Tright here are some scenes wright here she is turning into a white swan and other scenes wright here she is turning into a babsence swan — which renders feeling, as she is cast as both Odette and Odile in her ballet company’s manufacturing of Swan Lake. However, this renders her transdevelopment even more chaotic, as she is in the process of coming to be 2 exceptionally different swans.

The concept is likewise facility bereason the film encounters pet imitations, which, as I abovementioned, are not the exact same point as becoming-animal. These imitations are important to take into consideration in order to distinguish in between imitation and Deleuze and also Guattari’s principle of becoming-pet. While Nina imitates the white and also black swans when she dances, she is likewise literally undergoing a metamorphosis from girl to swan, which reportedly only she is conscious of. The other dancers in the manufacturing likewise wear feathery white costumes and makeas much as make them appear swan-like.

The film’s mise-en-scene is filled with imaginative depictions and replicas of swans: there is a swan skeleton in imaginative director Thomas’ (Vincent Cassel) office, his apartment has black and also white swan-like designs decorating the walls, and also tbelow is a mosaic image of a swan on the ledge of Nina’s bathtub. Nina and also Lily’s (Mila Kunis) costumes and makeup resemble the white and also babsence swans — Nina represents the breakable and also innocent white swan, as she is pale and thin, and frequently wears a pink and white jacket via a feathery white scarf, whereas Lily represents the dark and seductive babsence swan, with her dark eye makeup and also clothes and black swan wing tatalso on her ago. The production’s villain, Rothbart, wears a fancy babsence and green feathered costume and also a prosthetic bird’s beak. These examples all reexisting people imitating animals either for artistic pleasure or as component of their everyday expressed identity, and stand in stark contrast to the painful full-body transformations which Nina undergoes.


Nina’s becoming-swan is a lot even more visceral than these imitations, and at times is so violent that the film begins to feel choose a horror movie. The cam constantly focuses on Nina’s body as she runs to and from rehearsals, dances, alters clothes, picks at her skin, and scratches the rash on her back, and also as she starts to suffer the violent transformation from girl into swan. Nina’s body is paincompletely contorted, and the soundtrack is filled with sounds of cracking and breaking as her body transforms form. Her eyes revolve deep red prefer a black swan’s, and also she cringes as she pulls pointy babsence feathers out of the rash on her back. Her legs snap backward choose a bird’s legs, and she loses her balance, hitting her head on the steel edge of her bed.

She winces in pain as she realizes her toes have actually stuck together, coming to be webbed swan’s feet. In the most dramatic visualization of her transdevelopment, she fouettés throughout the phase as big babsence feathers cover her arms, until she takes her last bow, her arms totally transformed into swan wings. Afterwards, during the last performance as Odette — the white swan — tiny white feathers protrude from her arms, in an extra subdued version of the babsence swan performance. These are the ways in which her transdevelopment is visually presented.

These depictions of becoming-swan are presented as moments of body horror, signifying the incredibly dramatic nature of becoming-pet. In Linda Badley’s book Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic, she writes that horror is one of the a lot of physiological genres, focusing on bodily motions and also spectacle. Ronald Allan Lopez Cruz writes in the Journal of Popular Film and also Television that body horror is a sub-genre of horror, dealing with transgressions and also complications of biology, featuring distortions of the humale body.

Body horror tropes are offered in the visual depictions of Nina’s becoming-swan. Cruz writes that body horror regularly focuses on the assimilation of traits from one species to an additional, developing “hybrid species” which break dvery own any standard taxonomical classification. These species are presented as terrifying bereason they are formmuch less and also categorically incomplete, developing a fearful and also unspecific response in spectators. Black Swan may not be a typical horror film, however it certainly provides visual tropes of body horror to create fear and revulsion in spectators.

In Simone Bignall’s brilliant 2013 article, “Babsence Swan, Cracked Porcelain and also Becoming-Animal”, she notes that Nina’s becoming-pet transformation alters her relationships to those about her. As Nina’s identity radically changes, so does her method of connecting via those about her. She begins to refuse her mother’s possessive and regulating ways, and she starts a friendship through the seductive Lily. She has actually fleeting moments of sexual passion with her ballet instructor, Thomas, consisting of one surpincreasing minute as soon as she bites his lip so hard that he bleeds. These brand-new connections with others represent drastic transforms in Nina’s behavioral fads. Bignall writes that Nina feels totally free to communicate in new behaviors — going out dancing and also taking drugs via Lily, locking her bedroom door, continuing to be out late — bereason the process of becoming-swan has begun to expand her identification.

Bignall notes that becoming-animal occurs once an individual rediscovers its create as a multiplicity, quite than as one addressed identification. Deleuze and also Guattari think identification is composed of multiple elepsychological components arranged in complex connections. Bignall writes that Nina’s previous elepsychological parts include “dancing, music box, shyness, damaged toenail, ambition, frigidity, plush toys…”, yet that when she starts the process of becoming-pet, she is faced with the truth that she is even more than these points. She is no much longer a addressed individual, however a facility one that cannot be rigidly defined. Bignall defines that becoming-animal requires the dissolution of the individual along with the forging of brand-new and also complicated relations to others, which is exactly what Nina experiences as her identity alters.


Black Swan ends via Nina’s demise after she stabs herself via a stough of damaged glass and dances to fatality onstage. I will note that it is left ambiguous whether or not she actually dies, however she is essentially mentally and also physically damaged by the time the film fades to white at the very end. Nina is not able to properly reside in her state of becoming-pet, and her attempt to escape from her rigidly identified feminine identity is tragically fatal. Bignall writes that the process of becoming-pet may be radically disabling and also finish up totally destroying one’s subjective experience and also physical form — which is of course what happens to Nina. She descends right into madness and becomes detached from her body and also her feeling of self. She hallucinates that her mother’s paintings laugh at her, she imagines that Beth (Winona Ryder) stabs herself in the confront and also adheres to Nina house, and also she fantasizes around a passionate sexual enrespond to with Lily which she believes actually happened. As Nina moves better amethod from her past identification and becomes a “hybrid species”, the more she loses her grip on truth and her very own body.

Bignall notes that Deleuze and also Guattari account for the risks of becoming-animal, especially as soon as the procedure is so disruptive of one’s existing set of relations that the self is totally abolimelted, which basically happens to Nina. Deleuze and Guattari propose that one must be mindful during the procedure of becoming-animal not to leave behind one’s identification also conveniently, before considering the possible aftermath. Nina’s fearful and anxious personality does not enable her to soptimal and also think rationally about anypoint that is happening to her, so she proceeds radically leaving behind her sense of self, through tragic outcomes. Bignall writes that Nina’s transformation is radical and also catastrophic, finishing through her personal relationships, subjectivity, and physical body all in shambles and also totally unrecognizable.

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Natalie Portmale gives among her best performances in Black Swan, recalling the tragic and anxious performances of Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, and also even Sheryl Lee in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. What sets Black Swan apart from these other movies dealing with female tension and also loss of identification is that Nina additionally literally starts to become a swan ondisplay screen. This procedure moves the film from being a psychological thriller to being a body horror film at times. Nina suffers with a violent and also gruesome transdevelopment from girl right into swan, and also at the same time leaves behind her old feeling of self. She experiences pain and terror, however in the procedure, she additionally experiences sex-related ecstasy, and also feelings of flexibility and perfection, especially as soon as she dances as Odette and also Odile in Swan Lake.

Deleuze and Guattari’s principle of becoming-pet is exceptionally abstract, yet one of the biggest points about cinema is just how stselection ideas begin to make feeling once applied to movies. It is tragic that Nina is unable to totally free herself from her old identity in the finish, however her violent finishing is additionally tinged with triumph as she whispers: “I felt it. Perfect. It was perfect.”