Introduction New York City for a ballet company

Introduction – Summary

            The movie BLACK SWAN shows
the story of Nina Sayers played by Natalie Portman who is a young ballerina in
her mid-twenties. A ballerina in New York City for a ballet company whose life,
like everyone else in the profession, has been consumed completely with her
dances. Nina lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica Sayers played by
Barbara Hershey who jealously supports her daughter’s ambition after quitting
ballet to have her daughter instead. When the director of the ballet company show
has decided to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre for the opening
production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. Nina soon
realizes she has ‘competition’ with a new dancer who is Lily played by Mila
Kunis. Lily impresses Thomas LeRoy also. The production of Swan Lake required a
dancer to play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black
Swan, which represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role
perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the movie
continues, Nina starts to rival against the dancers and her only friend at the
moment who was Lily, into a twisted friendship. Nina starts to get more in
touch with her dark side that has a huge amount of recklessness that could be a
threat to destroy her own self for the production of Black Swan and its
perfections when performing.

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            Nina Sayers played by Natalie Portman is portrayed as a
fragile and repressed ballerina who is being controlled by her mother. She
strives to take the lead in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” (James, 2010). It is a
famous role that will need her to play both a gentle, innocent, and pure white
swan along with the seductive, eager, and confident in herself to be the woman
she wants to be. Nina goes through many characters who try to stop her from
becoming a dark figure from the rich innocence she still holds as a woman. She
finds her strengths, needs, and desires, throughout the movie to convince
everyone around her and herself that she is capable of playing the role of
Black Swan for her ballet company production.


            In the beginning of the film, Nina is a talented dancer
who has much potential to be a rising star. Other characters tell her she is
good at what she does but she wants to be much more than just ‘good’ to
everyone else; she wants to be perfect. When she notices her chance to be the
company’s prima ballerina due to the company’s prima ballerina being too old,
she steps in and tries out for the part of the Swan Queen. When auditioning,
she is interrupted by the entrance of Lily who is another very talented dancer
and Nina sees her as a rival for the role. Thomas, the director, stated Nina
was ideal for the White Swan role but soon upsets Nina when she is told she
cannot be considered for the role of the Black Swan because she doesn’t have
the passion and inner darkness required to play the Black Swan. Nina is seen as
the vision of innocence; a woman or lady who still lives with her mother who
babies her. The walls of her room are painted pink and her bed is covered in
stuffed animals. As an adult woman, she is portrayed she is still being coddled
like a child. After all, Nina is given the part of the Swan Queen by Thomas but
still can’t find her inner Black Swan. She is then advised to “lose herself” by
Thomas and that she was too “frigid”. Thomas forces himself onto Nina on and
on, attempting to rouse the Black Swan that he ‘knows’ lives inside her. Nina
then discovers that she isn’t a little girl anymore and has her own adult needs
such as her own sexual desires and needs. Thomas suggests to her to masturbate
to get a better understanding of herself. When Nina tries, it is cut short as
her mother interrupts her, showing she is still taking over her life but by
then it is too late and the Black Swan inside her is starting to develop. Lily,
befriends Nina and invites her to come out and by doing so, Nina is rebelling against
her mother by ignoring her phone calls while she is out. She then tries ecstasy
with Lily, which allows Nina to lose control. When Nina gets back home, she
fights once more with her mother and defies her wishes by taking “Lily” to her
room and barricading the door. Nina makes love to Lily all night only to find
out it was a hallucination she was having. It was then that Nina has allowed
the Black Swan to take over, giving into her desires. Odile, known as the Black
Swan within is fully awakened when Nina has increasingly erratic behavior in
which Nina smashes her mother’s hand in the door, breaking it, before having a
violent hallucination and knocking herself out. When she woke up her mother had
kept her in Nina’s own room, called the ballet company to advise them that Nina
wasn’t feeling well but the Black Swan in Nina wouldn’t let her mother steal
her big night and fought back, grabbing her mother’s broken hand to force her
out. Nina was now complete and her transfiguration had already begun.
Throughout the movie, Nina has had persistent hallucinations. Delusions of
scales rippling across her body, like the skin of a swan. Another hallucination
was of her plucking a black feather from the scratches and rashes on her back.
The most violent hallucination she has was her being physically transformed
into a swan, her knees inverting, and her eyes turning red. Lastly, on opening
night Nina was replaced by Lily, but Nina was showing the confidence the Black
Swan has given her, and convinces Thomas to give her back the stage.
Unfortunately, she ruins parts of the opening act which then causes “Lily” who
really is Nina hallucinating it is Lily, to go into her room and taunt her and
fight. Lily morphs into a double of Nina, who Nina ends up stabbing with a
broken shard of a mirror and this struggle was the final step of Nina’s
transfiguration claiming the title of Black Swan. Finally, onstage, Nina dances
she has never danced before and captivates the audience. Once she has finished
her Black Swan performance, she realizes when she goes back to the changing
room she stabbed herself not Lily during her hallucination. The sacrifice within
herself was to kill the old Nina and now be a new Nina, thus, transforming from
White to Black Swan. Nina Sayers sacrificed her own innocence to achieve
perfection in her dance. This cost her sanity and her life as she ended it
bleeding on stage laying stating, “Perfect – It was perfect”.

Psychological Disorder & Examples

            The psychological disorder portrayed in this film were
Bulimia Nervosa and Chronic Hallucinations. It is seen throughout the movie
Nina looking at certain foods, denying food, and throwing up in bathroom
locations. Hallucinating in many scenes can be seen, which vary from light to
heavy and dark hallucinations. Bulimia Nervosa played a role toward the end of
the movie the most where repeated vomiting and weight loss in the days leading
up to her final performance occurred and in the specific scene of the bathroom
in a facility, she is seen from the outside of the stall with her feet facing
the toilet and noises of vomiting occur. Following this scenario, she sees
writing on the bathroom mirror written in lipstick that she cannot seem to wipe
off, with writing such as, “WHORE”. Nina doesn’t often eat much in front of
people and if so, very small amounts to not gain any weight. Nina Also sees her
evil confident self in various locations with one being in either public or not
mirrors. In a particular scene, she is being fitted, while the lady who is
measuring her makes a statement that she has lost weight, while she goes back
and forth writing and taking the measures down. While the lady taking measures
is doing all so, Nina is between two mirrors that keep going into a long loop
that gets lost in them; she sees herself with an evil face, scratching her back
violently which scares her to turn around when she is advised that she is
almost done with her measures and to turn back. She then has a shocked facial
expression where it shows she cannot seem to interpret what she just witnessed.
Another interesting scene in the movie is when she is ‘transforming’ into the
Black Swan and defies her mother, by bringing her friend “Lily” into her room
and having a sexual encounter with her. This whole encounter ended up being a
hallucination that she had after ignoring her mother all night, taking drugs
like ecstasy with Lily, and partying all night. When she awoke she noticed she
was alone and when confronted Lily about not waking her up for practice, Lily
was surprised to be asked such a question which then led to Nina to think back
if it was all real or a dream. One last important hallucination that stood out
to me apart the other twenty-two hallucinations shown in the movie, were of her
picking at her skin in a scene of the movie where she normally scratches
herself when stressed out. It is the left back shoulder she notices scale like
skin and picks from underneath her skin a small, black, swan like, feather from
her back. This demonstrated to me that she was having chronic hallucinations
and was deeply into her role of portraying the Black Swan when production was
going to come alive in performances. This specific scene seemed to be like metamorphosis
of her own such as a swan.


            Assessing Nina Sayers in Black Swan, was not too
difficult as many of her hallucinations were shown right from the beginning of
her story. Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by binge eating and inappropriate
compensatory behaviors, such as vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise and the
misuse of diuretics, laxatives, or enemas (McGilley, Pryor, 1998). If I were
Nina’s therapist, I would ask her a set of questions that revolve around eating
disorders and hallucinations or “dreams” she may be having. I would then
diagnose or assess what is going on in her life to ensure I am giving a proper
assessment at the time. It is known that Bulimia Nervosa is ten times more
common in females than in males and affects up to three percent of young women
(McGilley, Pryor, 1998). Thus, in the movie, being a ballerina has its perks
but also its flaws as one has to have the perfect posture, movement, weight,
and more when performing. Nina cared very much for her weight and often looked
like she felt better when told she had lost some weight. It was like an
accomplishment for her. As for her chronic hallucinations, It is seen that
hallucinations are sensory perceptions that are present, in the absence of any
stimuli (Cowan, Murphy, Sederer). Since Nina thought she was having bad dreams,
they were not dreams in fact. The perceptions she had included objects, people,
and other things around revolving in her transforming world from White Swan to
Black Swan. Since these hallucinations are different from dreams, they are
experienced while a person is awoken and are very vivid and seemingly real for
the person perceiving them. They are different from illusions as well which is
actually a distorted view of reality and imagery which is actually under
voluntary control. It is under my belief, that Nina had many Visual and Auditory,
with some Command Hallucinations (Cowan, Murphy, Sederer). She had many visual
hallucinations in her work, public transportations, home, and any other public
place possible within the film. Along with her visual hallucinations, they were
auditory because she felt it was really happening and she was being talked to
when she heard voices during her visual hallucinations. Command hallucinations
was brought in because it was seen she was often told what to do in the movie.
Her production employer, her mother, her friends, would advise what to do, how
to do it, when to do anything, or any such possible item. She often either
hallucinated being told what to take or do and would perform her actions for
her well-being in the film. These hallucinations are experience in the form of
a person or persons giving commands. These types can be dangerous as the
commands may range from random actions to actual self-harm commands to commands
that dictate the harm of others (Cowan, Murphy, Sederer).





            In the state of Nina Sayers,
I would suggest treatment of Psychotherapy treatment including or not, medications,
if they help speed the process of healing Nina Sayers back to her normal state
of being of a woman who is in control of herself in a healthy state of mind. Within
Psychotherapy I would introduce Cognitive behavioral therapy because it can
help one identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them
with healthy, positive ones that come from one’s own thoughts. It helps them
realize their wrongs and want to better themselves in order to live a healthier
lifestyle. This talk therapy or psychological counseling will help involve
discussing your related issues with a mental health provider (Mayo Clinic
Staff, 2017) Within medications, antidepressants can help with bulimia when it
is used with psychotherapy. At the time, the only antidepressant specifically approved
by the FDA to treat bulimia is Prozac (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). Within
hallucinations, Psychotherapy and medications both also play a large role for
the person to improve themselves. When hallucinations are first experienced, a
person becomes confused and seeks an explanation for them. Anti-psychotic
medicines and atypical anti-psychotic medicines may help treat severe symptoms
that are causing significant distress to the patient. It can however, be
treated without the use of anti-psychotic drugs (Cowan, Murphy, Sederer). I
think the character would be responsive in the end when she realizes that she
has stabbed herself and may need medical attention in various ways. Not only
for her wound. She has hurt herself and would probably not want to lose her
part in the production thus leading her to cooperate and be responsive to





Bulimia nervosa. (2017,
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James, S. D. (2010, December
20). ‘Black Swan’: Psychiatrists Diagnose
Ballerina’s Descent.

December 10, 2017, from



McGilley, B. M., & Pryor,
T. L. (1998, June 01). Assessment and Treatment of Bulimia

     Nervosa. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from



Murphy, M. J., Cowan, R. L.,
& Sederer, L. I. (n.d.). Blueprints Psychiatry. The International

     Statistical Classification of Diseases and
Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10  

    (WHO). Retrieved December 10, 2017.






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