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West-Leuer, B. (2017). Black Swan - The Sacrifice of a Prima Ballerina: Psychosexual (Self-)Injuries as the Legacy of Archaic Experiences of Violence. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(4):1233-1244.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(4):1233-1244

Film Essay

Black Swan - The Sacrifice of a Prima Ballerina: Psychosexual (Self-)Injuries as the Legacy of Archaic Experiences of Violence Language Translation

Beate West-Leuer

Black Swan - The Plot of the Film

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) is about a New York ballet company whose artistic director wants to stage a production of ‘Swan Lake’. The young ballerina Nina Sayers is given - according to her wish - the dual role of the White and the Black Swan. Under the pressure of the role, her tendency to hallucinations increases. The evening before the premiere, she suffers a psychic breakdown. Yet Nina manages to persuade the director that she can dance in the premiere. When she finds a colleague wearing the Black Swan's costume in her dressing-room, she kills her rival. On the stage she is physically transformed into the Black Swan.

In the next interval, this colleague knocks on the dressing-room door to congratulate Nina on her achievement on the stage. Her death was evidently a hallucination. Now Nina notices that she has injured herself. She pulls a shard of glass from her stomach and finds she is bleeding. In the last act, she goes on stage and dances the White Swan. The audience, including her mother, is deeply moved by Nina's performance. When the curtain falls, the director Thomas Leroy notices the bleeding wound in Nina's abdomen. When he asks her what she has done, she replies that it was perfect (cf.

Film and Stage Productions - a Vestige of Collective Ritual Sacrifices

In Aronofsky's film version of the famous ballet ‘Swan Lake’, the audience witnesses how a prima ballerina, driven by external expectations and internal forces, meets with her death before the eyes of the ballet audience. For in the protagonist's psyche the libidinal and aggressive trends are so inextricably interwoven that the Black Swan's diabolical eroticism proves to be fatal to the White Swan's virginal purity.


[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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