Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Black Swan - Script vs. the film - Part II: Nina

Part I: Lily

Continuing with our look at the differences between the June 2009 draft of Black Swan and the completed feature film, let's take a look at how Nina herself is handled differently.

One of the earliest differences concerns Nina's audition. I've already mentioned how in the feature, Lily interrupts Nina's audition for the Swan Queen part, causing Nina to stumble. In the script, Lily hasn't shown up then, and the audition ends with the director expressing frustration that she's not passionate enough.

In the script, she goes home and dances in her room until she completes the difficult coda, eventually beaming with satisfaction when she nails it. The next morning, she dolls herself up and reports her accomplishment to the director. He's unimpressed and then forces a kiss on her. It's her aggressive reaction to that which convinces him she's got what it takes to be the Swan Queen.

If you've seen the film, you'll know that all of that is pretty much how it plays out on-screen - with one crucial difference. In the movie, Nina doesn't complete the coda, but lies that she did. Again, I think this is a more interesting character choice. It's an even better example of how fragile and desperate she is for the part - it's the first sign of just how she'll sell out her integrity to get the part. In the script, she's coming from the perspective that she earned it and is capable of it. In the movie, she's more like a student begging their teacher to change their B to an A because they have to have an A! It gives Nina an interesting flaw.

Another change: In the script, Nina sleeps with the director after she gets the part. It happens on p. 41 at the climax of a rehearsal. In the movie, it's VERY strongly suggested that Nina is a virgin, and that she lies at one point when the director asks about the men she's slept with. The scene in the film where the director asks her if she's had sex is not in the script. There also isn't a scene when he gives her an assignment to go home and touch herself.

Adding those scenes to the film, and removing the consummation scene casts the Nina/Director relationship in a different light. It makes him creepier for going after a girl who's somewhat sexually naive. Continuing that, playing up her virginity seems more in line with how her Odette (White Swan) is impeccable, but she struggles with her Black Swan.

In some ways, it's a small change to imply that Nina is a virgin, but it's one that adds a completely different subtext to any moments involving sexuality. Comment below: what's your take - good change or bad change?

Part III: Beth
Part IV: The Natalie Portman/Mila Kunis Sex Scene


  1. It’s a good change that Nina does not sleep with Thomas and remains a virgin for the reason that you argue – that it shows her struggle to become the Black Swan. And when she sees (or she believes she sees) Thomas and Lily having sex it adds to her fear that Lily might steal her role as she is capable of the sexuality to play the Black Swan.

    At first I wasn’t too keen on addition of the homework “assignment” to the film – I thought it was gratuitous and really no different from a movie like Sliver. However I now think it adds to our understanding of how sexually repressed Nina is and when she touches herself a second time in the film only to discover her mother is asleep in the room we understand the reason why.

    On a side-note Kevin Spacey jacked-off in American Beauty and won an Oscar so if Natalie Portman wins too I’m going to start adding homework “assignment” scenes to all of my scripts!

  2. In citing "Sliver," I think you effectively just nullified your own argument for putting a "homework assignment" in the script. :)

  3. Sharon Stone was robbed.

  4. I think the change was a very good one. I'm not sure how I would react had I read the script before seeing the movie, but usually I enjoy a script more than the film. That wasn't the case with Black Swan. I also read some version of the early draft mentioned here and found Nina to be entirely flat in the script.

    Her sleeping with the director in the script immediately turned me off as it didn't seem to come from anywhere. In the film, I enjoyed the changes Nina goes through and whether they were imagined or not, the process was subtle but visually stimulating.

    In the script, her changes are too heavy handed (as you mention in Monday's post) and seem to come with little character motivation.

    You mention her lying to the director in the film vs. the script. That character flaw, that desire to be the Black Swan really pushed the story forward. Nina became someone you wanted to watch. In the script, she mostly has everything she wants and is somewhat going through the motions as she struggles with her inner-demons - whatever they are, as I don't think the script does a good job of really explaining what it is that Nina goes through.

    Also, the ending of the film, the memorable line uttered by Nina is missing in the script and, wow, it makes the film's ending so much more worth it to have it.

  5. I don't think the film "very strongly" suggests that Nina is a virgin. I think she is one metaphorically, ie. she's repressed, but the virginity issue is ambiguous at best. I don't think the film would be very interesting if it was to actually make her virginity an issue - that's teen slasher-grade characterization.