Perfection and the black swan

Posted: 17/03/2011 in Perfection, Philosophy
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Black Swan, Lake Victoria, Avon River, Stratfo...

Image by Bobolink via Flickr

Last friday, I saw the movie “Black swan” and since then I was thinking about it almost continuously.

The film is about a ballerina in a ballet company who has been chosen to lead the new production of the company: “Swan lake” which is a story about a virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a white swan. She desires freedom but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince, but before he can declare his love, her lustful twin, the black swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated the white swan leaps of a cliff killing herself and, in death, finds freedom.

In order to innovate, the director of the Ballet company decided that the leader of the Swan lake dance should play both roles: the white and the black swan which are 2 very opposite characters. Nina, the main character of the film, is a very perfect dancer of the white swan, finds herself unable to perform perfectly the role of the black swan too.

The film is very tough. In term of psychology: it shows the conflicts inside a person who wants to be 2 opposite characters at the same time.

In term of phylosophy: the movie gives perfection a new definition:the perfect swan is the one who can play both roles. The problematic in the film is that Nina, a traditional girl, just knows how to dance the white swan: every step is predefined, every act follows certain rules, there are things and moves that are not allowed to be done. However, the black swan dance is the evil one: nothing is prohibited, there are no laws, there are no boundaries, everything is permitted. That’s why, every time Nina tries to play the black swan role she ends up badly because she used to follow the rules of the white swan dance.

Perfection is not just about control, It’s also about letting go. – The black swan

Many people think that perfection is about to do things as if they were dictated: You should move like that, work like that, act like that, follow these rules,  not break these laws, etc, etc… They try to model a perfect human being: what he should look like, how he should act in each situation, what he can or cannot do, making him very predictable and thus imperfect.

Well, if perfection is defined by a strict set of rules, it is not perfection anymore because you are excluding what can be done by not conforming to these rules. Doing some research on the matter, I have found as always, that I was not the first one who discovered this theory. In fact,  the singular paradox of perfection that states: “the greatest perfection is imperfection” already exists. This was formulated by Lucilio Vanini (1585–1619). His argument was if the world were perfect, it could not improve and so would lack “true perfection,” which depends on progress. To Aristotle, “perfect” meant “complete” (“nothing to add or subtract”). To Empedocles, perfection depends on incompleteness, since the latter possesses a potential for development and for complementing with new characteristics. The perfection of an art work consists in its forcing the recipient to be active—to complement the art work by an effort of mind and imagination.

By the way, the paradox of perfection—that imperfection is perfect—applies not only to human affairs, but to technology also: for example, the irregularity in semiconductor crystals, an imperfection in the form of contaminants is requisite for the production of semiconductors.

© Assaad Mouawad 2011

  1. Lolli says:

    I loved this!! I too, dwelled on it for a long matter of time. I am dissapointed you didn´t continue on to her mentality level. She seemed to start to have some hallucinations and dirty thoughts and stuff. I think by the ending, considereing she stabbed her self, she thought she was stabbing Mila Kunis´s character, because throughout the movie she made her “The Black Swan”. which was really her alter ego. BUT how and when did she start this? Also, her mom seemed to have some sort of mental instability. There is more beind the metaphors. Did she have an ilness? Did her mom. Cause I didn´t find this movie fiction at all but the point of view of a person taking on this roll but might have an illness. What do you think?

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