The Relationship Between Consumption and Obsession
by Emma Moon
Throughout the film Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky intentionally limits scenes highlighting consumption. In fact, there are only two scenes where the main character, Nina, is seen eating. Within the first few minutes of the movie, Nina is eating her breakfast which consists of only one grapefruit. Rather than a comment being made about the nutrition of the food or how quaint the meal is, both Nina and her mother, Erica, comment on the grapefruit's appearance. To the mother and daughter pair, the grapefruit is pretty and that is the only thing of note. The second scene showcasing something being consumed appears a little later in the movie. After being given the starring role in the ballet, Erica surprises Nina with a cake upon her return home. While both are pleased with the opportunity Nina has been given, tension begins to arise when Nina refuses to eat the cake. The slice is simply too big for Nina who refuses to eat anything that might negatively contribute to her performance in the ballet company and her appearance. Although both Erica and Nina fight over this interaction, Nina finally relents and takes a small bite of the cake. The scene ends before viewers can see whether she eats a whole slice or not. By looking at these two scenes, Black Swan obviously takes the position of an anti-feast. The film begs the question: At what point does obsession, which leads to perfection, become fatal? Throughout Black Swan, Aronofsky works to understand how food directly contributes to obsession and perfection when basic human needs are neglected.
Nina’s denial of basic human needs contributes to the magnitude of the question of fatality. This becomes even clearer when viewers are introduced to instances where Nina is physically making herself sick to maintain her physique. Throughout the film, there are multiple scenes where Nina can be seen in the bathroom stall as shown in the film still. Gagging noises begin and a toilet flush ends the scene. Later, viewers are taken into the stall where she can be seen purposely making herself gag with two fingers in her mouth. This behavior contributes to her obsession while further deteriorating her already sputtering mental state. As opening night gets closer, Nina continues to not eat, she appears to be at the lowest weight she has ever been, and her mental health is at an all-time low. But despite this, she delivers the perfect performance as the dual black and white swan. With a perfect performance as the product, Aronofsky asks whether this obsession is necessary to be perfect and, if so, if it is worth it.
Black Swan. Dir. Darren Aronofsky. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2012.