Tuesday, April 21, 2015

White Swan Black Swan Blogathon


Sati, over at Cinematic Corner, has spread her wings and invited us to follow her into the discussion of the duality of characters, or as she has so eloquently coined it, Black Swans.  I’ll let her explain:

What is black swan you may ask, Well, it has never been stated as an official term but I'd like to think the idea of a black swan/white swan is a very elegant way of depicting the duality in characters. So I encourage you to write about your favorite white swans/black swans, both in movies and in TV series. There are so many fascinating cases of character being one thing to the outside world and completely different person in reality - Mavis from Young Adult, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Brandon from Shame...you can choose characters from all the genres and it's doesn't matter if they are lead or very supporting.
 I'd love for this to be also the opportunity to write about those fascinating characters from the psychological standpoint, so go for it!

Here are the rules:

1. Choose max 3 characters to write about.
2. You can also feature characters from TV series.
3. We are not looking for doppelgangers - we are looking for one person with two sides. For example in Black Swan you can write about Nina and her alter ego but not about Lily and Nina, which are two different people. You can write about Gollum/Smeagol but you cannot write about Bette and Dot - the Siamese twins from AHS: Freakshow - because technically they are two different people.
4. Write about why you chose the character

5. Provide a theory on what causes the two different sides and what are the signs and contradictions between the two.
6. Link back to the post and feature the logo for the blogathon
7. Let me know you wrote the post either in the comment, via twitter - @lady_sati or my e-mail - sati.margaret@gmail.com
8. The deadline is April 30th
9. Most importantly? Have fun!

So, for my entree I debated and listed and narrowed and ultimately decided to go with one example only for the reason that Sati asks us to write about WHY we chose this character (or these characters), and with one of the many I had in mind there was a very specific reason I chose it, and so I wanted to focus on that.

So my choice was:


Teddy/Andrew from Shutter Island
I'm going to go ahead and announce right now that I'm going to divulge some MAJOR spoilers here, because there is no way to explain why he's my choice without doing so, and so if you have not seen Shutter Island, you may want to skip this post.  You should see the film, now, and then come back here.  

So, let's talk about his White Swan first.

Teddy Daniels is a U.S. marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of a patient at a secluded asylum.  He's equipped with his partner, Chuck, and a web of lies he's supposed to believe, and that's about all.  Teddy, by all outward appearances, is in way over his head.  He's a boy in a man's world, a man trying to pretend to be something he's not, but he's trying SO HARD.  He feels awkward and uncomfortable.  Teddy is playing house and it shows.  When I wrote about this performance back in early 2011, I mentioned that DiCaprio felt like a poor man's Humphrey Bogart throughout the first three quarters of the film.  This is all intentional, but it is also a very accurate way to describe this 'White Swan'; a man trying to pretend to be something he's not in order to escape his true self, his 'Black Swan', and the pretense of all he created is evident in the way it's built from fractured pieces of preexisting sources. 

Because this Black Swan is a doozey.

Yes, gone is Teddy and in comes Andrew Laeddis, a man who is not sent to investigate a disappearance at an asylum but a man who is actually a resident himself.  You see, Teddy is the alter-ego that Andrew has created to shield himself from the real reason he's on the island; he murdered his wife.


Now, there is a moment towards the end of the film, in the lighthouse, when this reality is broken to us and the White Swan disappears and the Black Swan emerges that is so honest, so brutal and so guttural and it made me sob...and I knew it was coming.  Yes, I was one of those people who had read the novel years prior (I didn't care for it) and so I knew the conclusion, I knew the answers to all the obvious going on, but I didn't expect what DiCaprio did here, I didn't expect this complete creation of character.  For, it is in this moment when Andrew comes forward and takes reigns of the story and the character, the facade that is Teddy, this White Swan, disappears that everything becomes clear.  All the 'bad acting' that DiCaprio was doing up until this point makes such clear, complete and devastating sense. 

Easily his greatest performance, ever.

But let's get back to the discussion at hard; the Black Swan.  You see, Andrew isn't playing house.  He isn't pretending.  He is one-hundred percent LIVING this nightmare.  His wife has just murdered their children, and in a rage of emotional collapse, he has murdered her. 

Why did I chose Andrew/Teddy?

Well, I've made it pretty clear here that I tend to watch films and relate to them based on my personal experience/feelings on a particular subject, and that being a father and a husband certainly colors my perception of film more than any of my other realities.  Andrew's personal trial touches me in a deep, personal place, because when I put myself there, I kill her too.  


I was actually talking with some friends the other day about how children are an entity that makes absolutely no sense.  They appear into your lives and immediately take precedence over everything.  You spend years developing friendships and relationships with other people, possibly taking years to feel a selflessness around them, and yet these little creatures who are, let's be honest, entirely selfish, come out of nowhere basically and they become, without hesitation, the most important things in your life.  You put up with them despite the fact that they cry about everything, demand everything from you, refuse to be quiet and destroy everything you've worked so hard to achieve.  But you can't help it.  You love them more than life, and because of that they ARE your life...until they aren't in your life anymore and then your life is over.

For me, this is what happens to Andrew.  Without his children, he isn't living, he isn't there anymore, and so he is replaced by another person, Teddy.  

I get this.

I understand this.

This would be me.

But this is also why Andrew's pain is so real and so consuming because the one person who took away the ones he instantly knew he loved was the one person he spent those years developing love for; his wife.  So this brings me to the second reason that I chose this character; his wife.  My wife has struggled with depression for years, and postpartum depression in particular was a very difficult time.  Warning signs are things we have to take seriously, not something we brush under the rug, and while I've had those conversations and heard those words ("I would never hurt the kids") you can't just accept that.  The pain in Andrew's crumbling as he has to let go of his wife is crippling because he doesn't want to accept the truth.  It's not even that he doesn't want to accept the fact that he killed her, it's the fact that he had reason to.  Coming to grips with reality is painful when reality is that the person you spent a lifetime learning to love and trust took everything away from you.

30 comments:

  1. Awesome choice!!! I totally agree with your point here, "All the 'bad acting' that DiCaprio was doing up until this point makes such clear, complete and devastating sense."

    DiCaprio gives a vivid portrayal of a vulnerable, haunted and ultimately terrified man, and so much more. Great stuff.

    Lovely writeup!

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    1. Yeah, this performance took me but such surprise. I remember thinking through the whole movie that DiCaprio was losing it. The performance was so awkward, so bad...and I was confused as to why he delivered such a shoddy performance and then the finale hit and it all made sense...it all came together...and I was in awe.

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  2. Excellent choice! I love Shutter Island and I loved reading this.

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  3. Wonderful write up, I really like how personal it was and the choice is very unique, I don't think that this is a character that pops to mind immediately when thinking about the theme but it's a very spot on choice. Well done and thanks so much for contributing!

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    1. YAY! I was hoping you'd like it and that it fit what you were looking for. So glad I was able to participate, and thanks so much for hosting such a unique and challenging (fun challenging) blogathon!

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  4. Now this was an interesting film. Unlike you, I wasn't prepared for the ending (ironic, considering that with hindsight someone actually told me at most a few weeks earlier). The whole twist really puts a new perspective on everything that has happened up to that point. The character himself does have those two sides as well. This is a very good write-up.

    I really got to get in on this action somehow. I need to find me a white and black swan.

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    1. It really does. The way the twist is worked into the film is far more effective than in the book, which feels like a sort of throw away and an obvious lead up.

      I hope you can get in on this. It's a great blogathon!

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  5. Excellent article. That Black Swa Mann really is a doozy. DiCaprio is amazing, here. Having trouble picking someone for my entry. Wish me luck.

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    1. I wish you luck, because I want to read it!

      And yeah, this Black Swan is a gut-puncher.

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  6. Ohh interesting choice here. I had no idea Shutter Island was your favorite Leo performance. He's so damn good in that movie, and I agree, that black swan is a doozy.

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    1. Yeah, the more this one rests the more I'm willing to call it his finest hour. It really is that reveal, because without the reveal then the performance is quite frankly one of his worst, but that reveal makes it all so incredibly intentional and honest.

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  7. Oh, that is a great choice and it's a very underrated film by Martin Scorsese. Leo is awesome in it as well.

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    1. Yes, Scorsese does inspired things with the source material, and Leo, as I mentioned, is at the very tip top of his game.

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  8. Great choice! Loved Leo's performance and the movie as well!

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    1. Glad to see all the Shutter Island/DiCaprio love!

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  9. What an excellent write-up and I feel you could really relate to the characters including his wife. I saw this film a few months ago and was not thinking that the film would be anything special but was I wrong. Leo showed depth! It looks so evil at first and then one realizes the place is anything but. It kind of reminded me of the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Have you seen this film? Actually it would fit perfectly in with this theme you have. I also would pick La Belle Et La Bette. The beast and the prince. I love that film and was sad to see the Beast leave at the end

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    1. Yes, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a great film and fits here perfectly. With La Belle et la Bete, the Beast and Prince are played by the same actor, but they are not the same person...so I'm not sure that would fit here...but it's a brilliant film!

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  10. LOVE THIS POST. That is all. - Jenna

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  11. I haven't seen this film yet Drew, but WOW your write up and attention to detail on this post is amazing!! I'm really struggling to come up w/ something that left an impression, so I'm not even sure I'll be participating. I'm sure I'll enjoy reading others' take on this though.

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    1. It was a challenging blogathon, but I kind of knew exactly where I wanted to go with this. I hope you can find something, but even if you can't, I'm sure you'll have fun reading the entries!

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  12. Brilliant choice! Leo totally sells both sides of this character. It's a performance that's so intricate, so layered, that I'm still shocked he was ignored virtually everywhere that year.

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    1. I remember all the last minute talk and speculation that maybe he could surprise with a shocking Oscar nom, because that fifth spot was between Duval, Bardem and Gosling and none of them looked secure...but alas, it didn't happen.

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  13. Amazing post! I love it when you infuse so much of yourself into your posts. Your thoughts on parenthood are perfect.

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    1. Thanks Irene! That's my favorite way to write, personal, because for me it's the best way to get the whole point across. If I don't expose that part of myself, my writing (and this blog) would suffer.

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  14. Wonderful post! There seem to be less suspense/thrillers that put so much trust into a singular character as the driving force behind the twist. Leo's performance in the film is so meticulous; often I think it is better than his go-getter performances like Wolf of Wall Street. Teddy/Andrew is one hell of a pairing. Thanks for sharing your personal connection to the movie and the character.

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    1. Thanks Katy! Yeah, for me this was such a detailed and intricate character, and Leo nailed this.

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  15. Great choice for this blogathon! It reminded me how spectacular Leo is as an actor!

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    1. It's surprising how underrated Leo can be.

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