BLACK SWAN: Subliminal Editing Frame by Frame
Aronofsky’s ‘Nightclub’ scene in Black Swan is a pearl of execution. It’s a piece of embroidery that deserves much more than fifty seconds of our time. I made that discovery by accident a week ago when I decided to look at the scene frame by frame to have a better understanding of the editing. And to my delight and total surprise, I realized Darren Aronofsky didn’t take the easy way to shoot and edit it.
By going frame by frame through the scene, I had confirmation of how far Aronofsky’s attention to details can go.
This scene is truly a masterpiece. Each frame is here for a purpose and each frame tells you ALL there is to know about Nina’s internal struggles. Her attraction/repulsion’s to Lily, her obsession about Black Swan and the many personalities fighting in her head to have a voice.
For this article’s purpose, I decided to put the first hundred frames. I was tempted to put the whole scene but then realized that probably nobody would watch it until the end, although I can assure you the craziness never stops! Very rarely, a frame was doubled or tripled (or…). Most of the time they were black frames. Therefore I decided to put only one frame of each composition. But really, what you’re going to see is the editing performed by the editor Andrew Weisblum and Aronofsky.
Here are the questions I’m dying to see answered:
– How much of the scene was storyboarded? (if any)
– How much was shot purposefully and how much was decided during editing?
– How long did it take to edit it?
I recently re-read the interview of Matthew Libatique in the American Society of Cinematographer volume published in December 2010. Although the magazine put 3 pictures from the nightclub scene to illustrate the article and asked Libatique about the more glamorous look of the lighting, at no point they talked about the visual specificities that compose the scene.
Is there an intentional secrecy about it? That’s another question.
I really wonder and would love to know more so please, if you do know about the subject, share it! Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy the discovery. As a filmmaker, I found it incredibly inspiring and exciting to see the artistic commitment of one of my favorite directors, and it certainly made me consider the movie with a new perspective.
As a last note: I decided to write this article because I think Darren Aronofsky didn’t make that scene so only him and his editor would know it exists. It has been put here so hard-core fans (maybe) or someone (at least) would find out about it and share it at some point. Because of today’s technologies, the word to mouth mutated to a tweet to tweet, but it’s the same, only on a larger scale; and it might spread widely or stay within the range of people interested in the making-of of art. [and art is what it is here.] That said, I’ll take it out if some people think this article hurts Black Swan instead of praising it.