The experience of belonging is a deep human instinct that is forged through steady connections to place, people and eventually a world of thoughts that keep our existence stable. The failure to maintain these connections can lead to the eruption of alienation, isolation and tragedy. These intensely moving human experiences are investigated in Raimond Gaita’s biographical memoir ‘Romulus My Father’ and Darren Aronofsky’s film ‘Black Swan’. Good morning teacher and classmates. The text ‘Black Swan’ is a film directed by Darren Aronofsky.
It is about a ballerina, Nina, who is elected for the main role in the classic ballet performance Swan Lake. She must play both the white and black swan but can only dance the white. She strives to belong in the position as the black swan and succeed in her role, but in doing so she spirals into insanity. My collage of pictures from the movie Black Swan, defines the importance of acceptance as an essential foundation of belonging.
Without the acceptance of a person into their surroundings, it becomes difficult for them to believe that they have a sense of belonging, which is what lead Nina to insanity.
Although acceptance is a key factor in belonging, identity and relationships can alter the acceptance of the individual. This is displayed when Nina morphs into her evil twin, the black swan that eventually corrupts her identity and total sense of belonging. At times Nina doesn’t feel as though she belongs in herself. Her mind-controlling mother is a big factor in this as she obviously has border issues and keeps strict control over all phases of Nina’s life. Because of this childish way Nina is treated, she feels trapped in her own little world, causing her to feel a sense of not belonging.
Nina’s bedroom is displayed in the movie as very juvenile with butterflies on the wall, a big white rabbit, a ballerina music box and an over all theme of baby pink. The white rabbit next to the window is a symbol of mind control, which originates from the movie Alice in Wonderland. By Alice following the rabbit she is lead to an alternate world, wonderland, which results in dissociation, exactly what Nina feels throughout the movie. Throughout the movie Nina thrives to be accepted and belong in the role of the black swan.
Thomas, the ballet director selects Nina for the Swan Queen, which means she has to play the roles of both the white and black swan, both completely opposite characters. Thomas knows that the meticulous dancer is perfect for the role of White Swan, but knows Nina’s frigid style will struggle to pull off the twisted, sexual and dangerous character of the Black Swan. Whilst watching Nina dance he says, “I knew the White Swan wouldn’t be a problem. The real work would be your metamorphosis into her evil twin. ” For Nina to belong in both roles as the White and Black Swan she must master good and evil; light and darkness.
This concept of duality is so vital, but as Nina lets the Black Swan gain power she begins hallucinating and starts to see all sorts of strange mutations on her body. Nina has no idea how these appear and falls into an utter state of confusion, not feeling as though she belongs in her own skin anymore. Motifs being Mirrors and Black Wings are used throughout the movie as signs of psychosis and the force of the Black Swan into Nina’s White Swan like character. The Black Swan evidently does not belong in Nina and therefore begins to destruct. Mirrors symbolically reflect the true state of Nina’s mind.
As the Black Swan continues to take over, creepy images are reflected as though it has a mind of its own. As these images are reflected Nina realises she does no longer belong to her own reflection and that she has a completely separate creature living inside her. It obviously does not belong in her as it acts totally out of her control. Right before Ninas big performance as the Black Swan she fights against herself in her dressing room. During the fight a mirror breaks, this represents the collapse of the psychological boundary separating both creatures.
The shattering of the mirror, results in Nina becoming the Black Swan. Black wings symbolically represent the force of the Black Swan into Nina, at different stages of the movie. Shortly after being crowned ‘Swan Queen’, Nina is fascinated by a creepy statue with wings spread. Little does she know it represents what she is about to become. Black Wings also appear on the back of Ninas friend Lily, and attached to Nina at the end of her ‘perfect’ performance as the Black Swan. She is briefly shown with black wings, symbolizing that she has become ‘one’ with the Black Swan and it now belongs inside her.
After her transformation, Nina fails to maintain stability between places, people and her thoughts, and as stated in the thesis, this consequently leads to tragedy. The whole process of marrying the white and black, good and evil, light and dark consumes her. The black swan completely possesses her and becomes this destructive force that she cannot live with. After a long process of tormenting her physically and mentally, Ninas sense of belonging finally collapses and she believes she cannot go on. The only way she can free herself is by committing suicide, and that she does.
Raimond Gaita’s memoir ‘Romulus My Father’, tells the story of his father Romulus who migrated to Australia with his wife and son. Gaita’s story of his father investigates the events of his life and defines the troubles that Romulus had trying to belong to the Australian culture. Like Nina, Romulus tries his hardest and does everything he can to be accepted. Romulus My Father explores a sense of familiar belonging and how it shapes who we are. In the novel a deep sense of belonging is present within the narrator himself. The narrator delivers observations in a reflective and thoughtful tone.
High modality of verbs suggests pleasant nostalgia about events in the book. A sense of belonging between Raimond and his father is displayed in the quote, “I loved him too deeply…no quarrel could estrange us”. Even after Christina dies, Raimonds aspects of belonging is family and culture, “we came together as son and husband with the woman whose remains lay beneath us”. Juxtaposed against Raimonds belonging is suffering of Christina in her displacement. The mothers inability to belong is described by Raimond as “a troubled city girl, she could not settle… in a landscape that highlighted her isolation”.
The depressed tone that Raimond conveys, suggests that Christine could not fit into the community and in Australia. Because of this lack of belonging she is lead to isolation and alienation, which results in her betraying her family, which is juxtaposed by “I felt awkward with her”. This shows Raimonds relationship with his mother has lost the familiar belonging it once contained. The parent and child relationship gives belonging to both Raimond and Romulus. Raimond gives his father strength to overcome constant tragedy, “my son is everything to me” and “never say I don’t love you”.
Romulus does everything he can to give his son a better life “he denied himself so I would have more”. Other central themes that force the characterizations of Romulus and Raimond are cultural and national belonging. Although pleasure and security is found in Victoria, a strong connection exists between Raimond and Romulus and their origin, Europe. Raimonds similes about his father display his sense of isolation in Australia, “he longed for European society, saying that he felt like a prisoner in Australia.
Raimond found that there was an absence of belonging in Australia, which is a sense of nationality and ethnicity. Verbal irony is used by Raimond, “They called him Jack”, which shows that even though the town tried to make Romulus belong by changing his name, he still decided to keep his won. Even though Romulus belongs to his community he still felt an absence of belonging that he did not want replaced with a simple name-change. The way that the narrator constantly refers to Europe displays that they still have a strong connection to their home where extra pleasure, comfort and sense of belonging can be found.
Our belonging and who we are is shaped by our context. ‘Romulus My Father’ by Raimond Gaita explores the definitive nature of cultural and familiar belonging. “Black Swan” by Darren Aronofsky allows the viewer to experience the dark side of entertainment through mind control, manipulation and immortality clashing with success and recognition and the destruction that can be caused on an individual when they do not connect with their sense of belonging. Together these texts allow us to examine both positive and negative aspects of belonging.