Black Swan: From the sublime to the...

This was a film I was hoping to enjoy – a female protagonist, ballet, wonderful music, madness and melodrama! Unfortunately, I was on the whole disappointed - it is far more conventional and (for want of a better word) ‘patriarchal’ than this. Within postmodern discourse there is much about the ‘return to the body’, subjectivity, intersubjectivity and agency as well as looking at ideas of abjection, subjection and monstrosity. And there are elements of all of these in this film as well as an impressive performance from Portman etc.

The Destruction of Divas

I do not intend to talk a great deal about the film itself – we are not here to be amateur film critics, but to sketch a few points of cultural comparison, in order to put the film in a particular kind of context. My remarks are derived from opera and ballet, two performance genres that share many mythological characteristics. I do so because it seems to me that Black Swan works – insofar as it does work – by weaving together some well-worn narrative themes.

Ballet Fiction

I was a dancer with Ballet Cymru for 13 years. I am now assistant artistic director of the company and am responsible for the training and maintenance of all the professional dancers employed by the company.

How do you make a Black Swan

The Black Swan is a classic narrative of self-destruction and part of a long historical tradition of exploring the boundary between transformation and annihilation. Freudians call this fundamental opposition of life forces Eros (the will to life) and Thanatos (the will to death). The Black Swan is a derivative of a much older story about the struggle of these forces. In fact, it is not the first time the ballet has been used as the setting to dramatise this struggle.

Into Eternity: Remembering to Forget our Nuclear Legacy

When asked whether he would leap in a river to save his drowning brother, the biologist J. B. S. Haldane is reputed to have said that he would risk his life for two brothers or eight cousins. Haldane’s response reflected what he felt to be the difference, from a biologist’s perspective, between what he shared in common with his own siblings on the one hand, and children of a parent’s siblings on the other.

A Monstrous World that Is Saved by a Mother who Writes a Poem

If I use the analogy of poetry upfront, this film is a visual poem that is devoted to mothers, grandmothers and sisters from all of us, monstrous beings who owe our lives (and sanity) to them. This incredibly rich and complex film touches upon a number of issues but in this short essay I would like to see this film as a beautifully crafted work that plays with the socially constructed concept of sanity and insanity.

Precious Memories

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”

What is the Word

In the early 1990s, the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag wrote ‘Samuel Beckett: What is the Word?’ This is a setting of Beckett’s last poem (initially with piano accompaniment, and later expanded for reciter, soprano, choir and small orchestra). The circumstances of the production of this piece are remarkable, and perhaps doubly so. They expose much about the nature and purpose of art and poetry in the face of suffering and the loss of articulacy.

Alzheimer's Disease: Current Care and Future Prospects

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a terminal neurodegenerative condition that causes cognitive decline and dementia in sufferers. In the UK, around 820,000 people have dementia, with AD being responsible for around 60 % of all cases. Like other forms of dementia, AD is an extremely debilitating condition. Sufferers find it increasingly difficult to perform the every-day tasks necessary for independent living, and eventually require help with the simplest of tasks. As a result, most dementia sufferers become substantial users of health and social care services.

How poetry makes us remember but also allows us to experience as if for the first time

‘You do love words, don’t you?’‘If one doesn’t have words how does one think?In her book, I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory, Patricia Hampl says:'How uncanny to go back in memory to a house from which time has stolen all the furniture, and to find that one remembered chair, and write it so large, so deep, that it furnishes the entire vacant room. The past comes streaming back on words, and delivers the goods it had absconded with.'