Black Swan V.S. Whiplash

May 10, 2021

Movies having a similar story is nothing new. However, Whiplash and Black Swan take the initiative of having a similar story, but a different way of telling it. Whether that be visually or sequentially. Film journalist V Renée explains how the storytelling of each film differs, “even though the films are about essentially the same thing, the filmmakers took very different approaches toward telling their stories. Aronofsky, a seasoned veteran of the medium, relies greatly on the cinematography of Matthew Libatique in Black Swan to express Nina’s obsessive desire to become a “perfect” dancer. However, newcomer Chazelle leans heavily on the editing of Tom Cross in Whiplash to communicate Andrew’s drive to become a “perfect” drummer.” The 2010 film Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, was a film that shocked audiences. The movie is written by Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin, and Andres Heinz. Heinz originally had come up with the story himself. The film won a total of thirty-one awards. Natalie Portman secures the Best Actress award at the Oscars in 2011, one of the most impressive awards an actress can win. The movie revolves around Natalie Portman’s character, Nina, a ballet dancer who is passionate about maintaining the lead in the upcoming production of Swan Lake; however, it is her past self who gets in the way of her dream of conquering the lead in the dance. The movie is a classic and an all-time fan favorite because of the constant dark and unexpected turns it takes, along with the personified version of Nina’s past self haunting her. 

 

Similar to Black Swan, the movie Whiplash, released in 2014, also holds the protagonist back from following his dream due to his younger self and past insecurities. Each film focuses highly on a character that pushes themselves to the brink of madness to accomplish their one lifelong goal, to reach perfection. This obsession with being perfect is constantly taunting the protagonists with critiques by their mentors. Andrew is a talented drummer who wishes to bring his talent to the next level. However, his past self, like in Black Swan, will not let him succeed. One of the easier comparisons to make along with the fixation of perfection used is the sequence of scenes. Each Act in each movie seems to be a clear resemblance to the other. But like any comparable set of things, it is easy to spot the differences. Although the movies themselves are nearly the same when it comes to the situations and plots, the filmmakers took a different approach when trying to tell this story. The two movies have been seen as a good example of using a narrative that has already been used and completely changing it up. 

 

At the beginning of each of the movies, both the main characters are introduced. Nina, a ballet dancer; Andrew, a drummer. The dissimilar irony of the engraved gender roles in each movie is something easy to spot. Nina is innocent and angelic, someone who loves to dance gracefully. She constantly wears a pink leotard and has a child-like bedroom full of stuffed animals and pink accents. It is mentioned in the movie how innocent she truly is. The writers add a lot of emphasis on how she can play the white swan so well, but when it comes to the black swan, she does not succeed. In the film, Nina attempts to make Thomas, the director of the production, consider her for the part of the swan queen. Thomas responds to her by saying, “The truth is when I look at you all I see is the white swan. Yes, you’re beautiful, fearful, and fragile […] In four years every time you dance I see you obsessed getting each and every move perfectly right but I never see you lose yourself. Ever! All that discipline for what?” The white swan is a symbol of innocence and purity, whereas the black swan is just the opposite. She even has a breakdown where she gets angry at herself for being so pure, and as a symbolic representation, she tears up her childlike bedroom. She even acts up completely opposing her younger self. Andrew is a drummer. He is an ambitious young drummer who is trying to achieve his dream. He is taken into the hands of his mentor, Fletcher. Throughout the movie, you truly see how influential Fletcher is on Andrew. Not just with his performance, but his sanity as well. 

 

At the end of each movie, both the main characters give a final performance. Both trying to reach their ultimate goal of perfection. Andrew drums in the top jazz ensemble for his performance, and Nina dances as the White Swan and Black Swan in Swan Lake. With Andrew’s performance, you can see how hard he is trying to be perfect. You can see his blood, sweat, and tears dripping onto the cymbals of his drums. While performing, he has a moment where he messes up. But Andrew continues to drum, determined to finish his performance. Before the end, he shares a moment with his mentor, Fletcher, and they return smiles to each other. He finally reached perfection. In Black Swan, Nina performs and has a mess up quite as Fletcher did. She gets angry in the middle of acts and has yet another breakdown backstage, causing her to stab herself during a hallucinative episode. In the final Act of her performance, she goes on as the White Swan. As she is finishing the dance, we see a pool of blood forming at her stomach. She ends her performance, and as the curtains close, dancers and the rest of the crew are surrounding her. Everyone is in shock when they realize the physical state her body is in. The movie closes with blood gushing from Nina’s side as she says the line, “it was perfect.” And the credits begin to roll. 

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