Babes in bondage - Page 2

YEAR IN FILM: Or, 2010's perfection-pursuing fatal femmes

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Failed ballerina Erica (Barbara Hershey) is just one of the demons haunting Nina (Natalie Portman) in Black Swan.
PHOTO BY NIKO TAVERNISE

Psychological and physical metamorphoses are rampant in the movie, characterized by Nina's overly precious pink butterfly wallpaper and Thomas' uber-masculine Rorschach blotter–inspired living room. In a motif most reminiscent of David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986), Nina begins to see nonhuman physical transformations in the form of scratches that elicit bristle-like feathers on her back, much in the same way The Fly's Seth Brundle grew coarse insect hairs as he slowly morphs into "Brundlefly." Nina finally asserts her sexual independence by absorbing her "black swan" by way of sexually demonstrative doppelganger, Lily (Mila Kunis). In the process, she becomes something all-powerful and completely unknowable, achieving total perfection. She also ceases to be human.

Transcending the entrapment of biology plays a major role in Splice and Never Let Me Go as well. In Splice, Dren's jacked-up DNA is a source of fear and revulsion to Elsa's husband and coresearcher, Clive (Adrien Brody), and she is held captive while they study her in their pursuit of greater scientific truth. But her creator-mother can't help but delight in her otherness, which mirrors her own in some perverse way. She even insists that Dren, who resembles something akin to a beautiful chicken-alien-minotaur, is "perfectly formed." The moment Dren reveals her magnificent wings for the first time (wings she didn't even know she possessed) recalls Nina's crazed transformation in Black Swan. Both characters eventually embrace their outsider status, although it's hard to say if it really works out for either of them. (Baby steps.)

Officially, Never Let Me Go isn't really a horror film, but more of a Merchant Ivory–style sci-fi. In addition to being an exercise in stylistic restraint and melancholy, Romanek's film is an affecting, straight-faced mediation on life and loss. But its core conceit can easily be read as a story of body horror as well. Kathy, the pretty, waifish clone-girl at the center of the narrative, grows up at a genteel English boarding school called Hailsham, a place she finds as warm and nurturing as the womb. But it's also a place from which there is no escape. By virtue of her very birth, Kathy is bound by a grisly obligation, metaphorically and literally: eventually her body will be dismantled bit by bit, her organs redistributed, so that in her death (or "completion," as its dubbed in a kind of gentle Newspeak) "real" people may live. But her body's eventual betrayal is not Kathy's ultimate source of horror. Her true other-ness isn't represented by physicality, but by spirituality: like all her fellow clones, she must question the very idea that she is human, what it means to be human, and whether or not she even possesses that supposed essential blueprint, a soul. The audience shares Kathy's existential horror at that most inner fear. Eventually, though, it's virtually impossible to not acknowledge what makes Kathy, like Nina and even Dren, so potently human. Their humanity, of course, is in their very imperfection. Nobody's perfect, except for maybe that little spitfire Natalie Portman. At this point, I think it's safe to say she's at least better than the rest of us.

Comments

Riviting writing! An amazing disection of psycological aspects of the 3 films.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 11, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

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