“Black Swan” is an intense psychological thriller describing a ballet dancer’s metamorphosis into the “Black Swan”. Behind the movie’s freaky facade lies a profound commentary on the cost of fame, the sacrifice of artists and the hidden forces behind the shady world of high-stakes entertainment. We will look at the occult symbolism of the movie and its themes relating to the dark side of show business.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan follows shy ballet dancer Nina along her path to success in the demanding world of professional ballet. Black Swan can be considered a companion piece to the director’s previous movie, The Wrestler, which also describes the ups and downs of a troubled person working in a lesser-known field in the performing arts: professional wrestling. Although both movies explore similar themes (i.e. sacrificing one’s self for the good of the performance), the world in which Nina evolves and the obstacles she must endure are diametrically opposed to those of The Wrestler. Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a blue-collar guy living in a blue-collar town and must cope with the physical pain caused by his blue-collar lifestyle. Nina, on the other hand, performs in the refined world of ballet and her struggles are psychological, emotional and even spiritual.
I often point out that great works of art can be interpreted in numerous ways, depending on the knowledge and experiences of each viewer. This movie is no exception … there are indeed numerous ways to interpret the plot of the movie. Through the use of meanings and symbols, however, the movie clearly alludes to many issues previously discussed on The Vigilant Citizen: the dark and occult side of fame, duality, trauma-based mind control, the forced creation of an alter persona and more. The main character, Nina, goes through a metaphysical change – by getting in touch with her “dark side” - in order to become a better performer. This change is imposed on Nina by her “handler”, in this case, her ballet director. The movie uses subtle references to trauma-based mind control to explain the creation of an independent alter-person in Nina’s psyche.
Although Black Swan is fiction, it nevertheless explores hidden realities of high-stakes art and performance. There are numerous examples of artists who have embraced darker alter egos to take their art to “another level” … and many who ultimately are consumed by them. We will look at the occult and mind-control elements of Black Swan and see how they relate to some of the realities of the world of professional entertainment.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead!
Black Swan is a modern retelling of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, Swan Lake. In the movie, the ballet director, Thomas Leroy (played by Vincent Cassel), describes to his dancers the basic plot of the ballet:
“We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan. She desires freedom, but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince. But, before he can declare his love, the lustful twin, the Black Swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated, the White Swan leaps off a cliff, killing herself and, in death, finds freedom”.
Nina, a shy and fragile young woman is chosen to play the role of the Swan Queen and must therefore embody both the pure White Swan and the evil Black Swan. Her quest for perfection as a ballet dancer leads her to experience, in her everyday life, the transformation experienced by the White Swan in the ballet’s story. The events of Nina’s daily life therefore mirror the story of the character she takes on as a ballet dancer, ultimately leading to confusion and, as the line between reality and fiction blurs, to apparent insanity.
The director’s use of mirrors and reflections in numerous scenes are a constant reminder of Nina’s altered perception of reality. Mirrors in the movie are often misleading and Nina’s reflections seem to have a “life of their own”. As Nina becomes haunted by the Black Swan, this alternate persona takes a life of its own and acts outside of Nina’s conscious control. We will explain later how this relates to trauma-based mind control.
If you have not read other articles on this site, trauma-based mind control – also known as Monarch Programming - is the process in which an individual is subjected to intense trauma and dehumanization in order to cause a mental dissociation. This causes a fragmentation of the slave’s personality and enables the handler to create an alternate persona that can be programmed at will. Some researchers claim there are occult elements at work in this process.
“Project MONARCH could be best described as a form of structured dissociation and occultic integration, in order to compartmentalize the mind into multiple personalities within a systematic framework. During this process, a Satanic ritual, usually including Cabalistic mysticism, is performed with the purpose of attaching a particular demon or group of demons to the corresponding alter(s). Of course, most skeptics would view this as simply a means to enhance trauma within the victim, negating any irrational belief that demonic possession actually occurs.”
- Ron Patton, Project Monarch
Let’s now look at some central themes of the movie.
Nina and her Trauma
Nina lives in a small New York apartment with her mother, Erica, about whom the least we can say is that she is overbearing. Many allusions to trauma-based mind control can be found in Nina’s living environment and her mother’s controlling behavior.
Nina’s mother, a retired ballet dancer who failed to become a star, acts more as a mind-control handler than a mother. She obviously has boundary issues and keeps tight control over all aspects of Nina’s life. Real-life Monarch slaves often start their difficult lives as victims of ritual abuse in their own household. Symbols relating to mind control in Nina’s house probably reflect this sad reality, including her pink, childlike bedroom.
Other people in Nina’s life, apparently preying on her weakness and “victim energy”, take advantage of her sexually.
Nina’s mother has, therefore, subjected her daughter to trauma-based mind control in order to make her a submissive woman who would realize her mother’s failed dreams. This has trained Nina to disassociate to make her existence bearable, which in turn makes Nina the perfect subject for the creation of a dark alter persona: the Black Swan.
Bringing out the Black Swan
Getting back to the storyline, Thomas, the ballet director, is looking for a new ballet star play the role of the Swan Queen. Nina’s meticulous dancing is perfect to play the role of the White Swan, but she must also be able to play the Black Swan, a role that requires the dancer to be twisted, sexual and dangerous. Nina’s frigid style is not suitable for the Black Swan, but Thomas chooses her as the Swan Queen anyway. He knows she has it in her, and he will bring it out.
At one point, Thomas tells Nina:
“Perfection is not just about control. It is also about letting go. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. Transcendence. Very few have it in them.”
Watching Nina dance, he later says:
“I knew the White Swan wouldn’t be a problem. The real work would be your metamorphosis into her evil twin.”
In order to obtain perfection, or in alchemical terms, to accomplish the Great Work, Nina must master both good and evil – light and darkness. The occult concept of duality becomes therefore extremely important (more on this later).
Thomas’ job is to create in Nina a new, agressive and sexual alter-ego. He therefore becomes Nina’s new mind-control handler. Whereas her mother “programmed” her daughter to be a submissive ballet dancer who never questions her mother/handler, Thomas requires her to embrace the exact opposite. He represents the “big league”, the next level of Monarch programming.
In order to become a Black Swan, Nina must be able to be somewhat comfortable with sex, and even enjoy it. So Thomas gives Nina homework: to “touch herself”. Ready to do everything to become a better dancer, Nina tries to masturbate but her mother causes a blockage. Sexual pleasure becomes therefore a form of emancipation from her mother’s control and her initiation to the “big league”.
As the Black Swan grows in power, Nina starts hallucinating physical mutations on her body. The only other person that can see these mutations are Nina’s mother, who, as a handler, has the “key” to her psyche. She is aware of Nina’s gradual transformation and tries to repress it, knowing it will cause the lost of her “little girl”.
This situation reflects the ugly truth behind real-life ritual abuse. Children, who are already dissociative due to their parent’s abuse, are handed over to “higher instances” who continue the programming process. In this case, Nina is handed over to the entertainment world (known to use Monarch programming on celebrities) to create in her an alter persona destined to be a world-renowned star.
In order for Nina to become the new Swan Queen, however, someone must step down.
Beth MacIntyre: The Ageing Star Who Was Pushed Aside
Beth MacIntyre (played by Winona Ryder) is the previous star of the ballet company. However, she is growing old and “losing her edge”. As a veteran, Beth already went through the “Black Swan process”, and, as some people might say, she “sold her soul to the devil”. Although this deal gave her years of great performances, in the end, the process completely destroyed her. She has become a bitter, conceited and hateful person who is incapable of existing without being the Black Swan.
There are many real life cases of celebrities suffering the same fate. After being recruited, programmed and primed by the industry to become a superstar, they are suddenly dropped and forgotten. Being psychologically damaged, not knowing who they really are, the fallen stars sink into depression, drugs, alcoholism and even suicide.
Thomas, who was Beth’s handler (he called her “my little princess”, a mind-control trigger) no longer needs the alter-ego he created in her. It is however impossible to “deprogram” her, so she completely loses her mind. The next day, the ballet company learns she got hit by a car. Thomas says:
“You know what, I’m also sure she did it on purpose. Everything Beth does comes from within, from some dark impulse. I guess that’s what makes her so thrilling to watch … so dangerous … even perfect at times. But also so damn destructive.”
So the “spirit”, the alter ego that consumed and destroyed Beth, was also the hidden force behind her great performances. The public has always been fascinated by intense and inspired performers who touch them on a primal and visceral level. Depending on the performance, this source of artistic transcendence has been attributed to the divine or to the devil. Controversial and groundbreaking performers have often dwelt between brilliance and insanity – tapping into a mysterious force at the source of artistic greatness and, on the other hand, imminent self-destruction. Religious people might say this force is nothing less than spirit possession; scientists might say that psychological torment leads to creativity. No matter the term one uses for this “force”, it certainly exists and it is tapped into by some of the world’s most influential artists. Beth hosted this force and it completely destroyed her … and now it can move on to Nina.
The Black Swan Takes Over (Black Wings and Mirrors)
The Black Swan is the artistically brilliant yet spiritually destructive force Thomas wants to see born in Nina. He obviously knows about the Black Swan’s devastating powers, but he doesn’t care and never did: he is after the ultimate performance. Once Nina has been “used” up by the Swan, he will find another dancer to replace her. He is a representation of the entertainment industry, which manipulates artists into becoming Black Swans, ultimately trashing them when the Swan’s effects have faded.
The “force” of the Black Swan is symbolically represented by black wings at different stages of the movie.
Another symbolic poster. The Black
Swan’s phallic beak is here shown
“penetrating” Nina’s psyche.
Mirrors are used throughout the movie to symbolically reflect the true state of Nina’s psyche.
The Magnum Opus and the Sacrifice
At the show’s premiere, Nina gives a stellar performance. She successfully plays the sweet and timid White Swan, and, when the time came, she was overtaken by the “force” to become the twisted, yet thrilling, Black Swan. By marrying the white and the black, the good and the evil, the light and the dark, Nina has accomplished the alchemical Great Work, the occult path to illumination.
The process, however,consumed her. By allowing the Black Swan to completely possess her, Nina gave the performance of a lifetime, but she has become a different person. Thomas and the audiences are in love with Nina as the Black Swan – the same way the prince of the ballet falls in love with the White Swan’s evil twin. But this is not the “real” Nina. The Black Swan is a destructive force she cannot live with: it is tormenting her on a physical and psychological level. Not able to go on, the only way Nina can free herself, is by killing herself. And this is what she does.
Does this remind you of anyone else’s self-sacrificing performance?
Real Life Black Swans
There are real (and tragic) examples of brilliant artists who have been consumed by an intense role. Either they self-destroyed or they HAD to die as a ritual sacrifice. Is Black Swan a commentary on this mysterious phenomena?
A recent example of a self-destructive role is Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.
Jack Nicholson warned Heath Ledger on ‘Joker’ role
Heath Ledger thought landing the demanding role of the Joker was a dream come true – but now some think it was a nightmare that led to his tragic death.
Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker in 1989 – and who was furious he wasn’t consulted about the creepy role – offered a cryptic comment when told Ledger was dead.
“Well,” Nicholson told reporters in London early Wednesday, “I warned him.”
Though the remark was ambiguous, there’s no question the role in the movie earmarked as this summer’s blockbuster took a frightening toll.
Ledger recently told reporters he “slept an average of two hours a night” while playing “a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy …
“I couldn’t stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going.”
Prescription drugs didn’t help, he said.
- NY Daily News, Source
For more on Heath Ledger, read this article I wrote on his last movie and symbols regarding his sacrifice “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and Heath Ledger’s Sacrifice.
Another example of an actor dying in mysterious circumstances after playing the role of a devilish and twisted character is Brandon Lee as The Crow.
In addition to those two extreme cases, there are many cases of artists who, after years of brilliance, mysteriously self-destroyed. Drugs and suicide are often blamed for the tragedies but who really knows what happened with Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison, just to name a few?
Black Swan is a profound movie that can be interpreted on many levels. We looked at the occult and mind-control elements of the movie and examined its messages on the shady world of show business. The movie’s commentary on the entertainment world’s marriage with occult forces is something that has been discussed numerous times on the Vigilant Citizen. Although the concept is rarely discussed or even noticed by the average person, insiders in the entertainment world often attest to strange forces of varying kinds at work in the industry.
Through Nina’s metamorphosis from a shy nobody to a possessed superstar, the viewers experience the dark side of entertainment. Mind control, manipulation and immorality collide with success and recognition. Dark impulses, addictions and self-destruction arise with artistic genius and creative brilliance. Those who are “running the show” know how to bring the Black Swan out of up-and-coming artists … and they know very well it will destroy them in the long run. And they are OK with that. The same way Beth was pushed aside to welcome a new Swan Queen, the public will always welcome the elite’s newest star with applause and acclaim. Because, as they say, the show must go on.