Four Degrees of Seperation

Black Swan.  A beautiful psychological and psychotic soufflé of nightmarish paranoia and obsession, and undoubtedly the best film of the past year. It was a breath of cold, fresh air that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and prickle with tension – a welcome departure from Saw 26 or whatever number it was. In light of Aronofsky’s masterful melodrama, here are four films that appear to have influenced its production.

1. Repulsion (Polanski, 1965)

Polanski’s classic tale of psychological meltdown and demonic fear really helped, for one of the first times, to mold depictions of mental torture with physical manifestations in what would become an increasingly corporal European aesthetic. Catherine Deneauve’s increasingly brittle Carole is channeled into Swan’s Nina, as is the claustrophobic camerawork and oppressive mise-en-scene.

2. Carmen (Saura, 1983)

The performance, oh the performance. Carlos Saura’s beautiful flamenco retelling of the Carmen myth is hypnotic, mesmeric and enchanting at its lowest point; transcendental and holy moment-heaven at its highest. Black Swan‘s ballet scenes certainly have elements of this, as well as showing the increasingly indistinguishable line between reality and fiction.

3. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

The relationship of Nina and Lily in Black Swan clearly has antecedents in that of Betty/Diane and Rita in Lynch’s mind-bending movie – questions of lust, desire, rivalry and truth are all common to both. Additionally, the question of reality/fiction once more comes to the fore, and from what better place to source such themes than David Lynch, the master of brain-melting, cerebral spinning cinema.

4. The Wrestler (Aronofsky, 2008)

Perhaps cheating a little bit here, because a director’s previous work can often be found throughout his/her films – but the correlation between Aronofsky’s most recent two works is particularly informative. The Wrestler is a film about performance, about obsession, about self-harm and ultimately, about martyrdom. Be it Randy the Ram in the world of pro-wrestling, or Nina in the realm of ballet, the outcome is the same – Aronofsky’s characters destroy themselves in the no-holds barred, unbridled, fanatical pursuit (and eventual realisation) of their dream; ironically, having lived through the nightmare.


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