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Black Swan Evaluation

Destiny palmer Professor Vicki Schwab 10/26/2012 English 101 Evaluation Essay The Black Swan Evaluation Essay Perfection is a dream chased by many, but only a few ever achieve it. More often than not, reaching that level of flawlessness requires great sacrifice. “The Black Swan”, directed by Darren Aronfsky, is a captivating psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet.

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The Movie received high ratings and Natalie Portman, who played the lead role of Nina, received praise for performing a majority of the dance scenes herself without much help from a stunt double.

The real controversy comes a week after the movie is available on DVD when Portman’s stunt double, Sarah Lane, claims that it was actually she who did the majority of the dancing. According to Lane, Portman’s dramatic transformation into a ballerina – a story firmly at the center of her successful Oscar campaign- was not as impressive as the public was led to believe. “I mean, from a professional dancer’s standpoint, she doesn’t look like a professional ballet dancer at all and she can’t dance in pointe shoe. And she cannot move her body; she’s very stiff,” says Lane. Katrandjian) She claims that they [the directors and producers] only wanted for Portman to win an Oscar, and that’s their reason for falsely claiming that Portman danced. Otherwise it would not have been that effective of a movie. Others claim that it is not the dancing that won Portman an Oscar, but the way she portrayed an innocent, fragile, and sheltered adult-child who morphs into something perfect and unrecognizable at a fatale expense. “Black Swan” stars Natalie Portman as Nina Seyers, a featured dancer who is casted as the Swan Queen in the production “Swan Lake”.

Nina is a quiet girl with an innocent demeanor, but also has hallucinations which are why her mother keeps her confined. She strives for perfection, but in order to get the part as the swan queen, she must show herself capable of playing the black swan. The black swan part requires her to not only “losing herself” but to be “seductive” in the dance. The audience is able to see the transformation of Nina throughout the movie. Nina’s life is a parallel to the production in which she is dancing. She is pure like the white swan, but later transforms into the polar opposite.

She becomes the black swan towards the end of the movie and achieves perfection but only in death. Nina has a thirst for perfection, and it is this thirst that takes her to the edge and ultimately out of her innocence and into adulthood. Jen Chaney, a publisher for the Washington Post, noted “What impressed me the most about Portman’s work in “Black Swan”- and, I, suspect, most critics and Oscar voters- was the way she convincingly portrayed a fragile young woman descending into madness. The dance part of it never factored into my assessment of her performance…” (Chaney).

Elizabeth Vargas, an anchor on Good Morning America, hosted an interview with Sarah Lane and others concerning the controversy. Vargas asked Jess Cagle, managing editor of entertainment weekly, “Do you think that any of the people that voted for Natalie for best actor for the Oscars would not have voted for her had they known that she didn’t do all the dancing for the movie? ” Cagle replied “I can guarantee that it would definitely hurt Natalie Portman, and there was a lot of great dancing that Sarah Lane did that enhanced this performance and helped Portman win an Oscar. (Natalie). The way that a stunt double works is that the director would cast someone of similar height and weight and they would dance in that scene, and later they would digitally graft the face of the actor/actress onto the body. Portman’s face was superimposed onto Lanes body through special effects called “face replacement” in crucial dance scenes to make it appear as if it were Portman performing the sophisticated moves. The stunt double signs a contract that explains that she might not be featured in the credits. I am unable to say if Lane completely understood the contract.

It is possible that lane is unfamiliar with the film industry but slandering the film and actors in it could prevent her from ever being casted as a stunt double in any future major films. It was unprofessional and Lane was told when casted that she wouldn’t receive out right credit. Others feel differently, they feel that Lane should defend the honor and hard work that dancers put into their line of work. Nikol Klein, a professional Ballet dancer, coach, and blogger wrote on her website “Whoever did the dancing in the movie is not the reason it won an

Oscar. I understand {as a dancer] that some in the dance community feel that Natalie Portman won the Oscar for her “Upper Body” portrayal of a dancer, but if you truly watch the film you will see that it is far more than that. Natalie Portman received a much deserved Oscar for her work as an Actress, not as a dancer. In fact, if you watch the movie again you will see that there really isn’t much dancing in the movie at all. Has Lane seen the movie? So why the controversy? One thing that we dancers have is pride.

Our profession feeds off of acknowledgement and acceptance. ” A lot of what Lane is upset about is how she feels that Portman is claiming that you can become a ballerina in a year in a half. Although this is untrue and was never stated by Portman, actors and actresses do go through intense training for their part. For example, the movie “Walk the Line”, a film about the life and career about Johnny Cash, Reese Witherspoon actually had to learn to sing like June Carter Cash. Oscars like these are often handed out for full artist transformations.

It is part of what acting involves, which is why the audience saw Reese Witherspoon win an Oscar for “Walk the Line”. Anytime an actor can mold them into something they’re not, real talent is shown and Oscars are given. It’s been done time and time again. It has been said repeatedly that if Natalie had been honest about her lack of actual dancing, she probably would not have won. When did she ever lie though? In countless interviews I watched, Natalie has always acknowledged the fact that there was indeed a stunt double; they all had one. Needless to say, it was about the transformation that took place.

Portman spent year and a half training for this part and had lost a significant amount of weight in order to show the actuality of a ballerina. Lanes statement were followed by a rebuttal in a March 23 2011 L. A Times article in which Portman’s then fiance (now husband), and Black Swan dance choreographer, Benjamin Millepied said Lane’s work in the film was far less significant. “There are articles now talking about her dance double that are making it sound like [lane] did a lot of the work, but really, she just did the footwork, and the fouett? , and one diagonal [phrase] in the studio,” he said, “honestly, 85% of that movie is Natalie. ” “Black Swan” editor Andy Weisblum agreed to take a closer look for “20/20. ” “There are about 35 shots that are full body shots in the movie. Of those 35 shots, 12 are Natalie, and then the rest are Sarah,” Weisblum said. “But over the overall film, Natalie did a lot more than that. I mean, she did most of the other shots. It was sometimes hard for me to tell the difference as the editor, it was so close. ” (Zakarin).

As I researched the background history, I came across this statement from Darren Aronofsky, “Here is the reality; I had my editor count the shots. There are 139 dance shots in the film – 111 are Natalie Portman untouched,” he said “28 are her dance double Sarah Lane. If you do the math, that’s 80% Natalie Portman. ” (Zakarin). The point is this movie is one hour and 48 minutes long. Regardless of how many shots were of Lane or Portman, we all know for a fact that 100% of the acting was Portman which Is what makes “Black Swan” an Oscar winner.

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