3. The Audience’s Perspective


For this analysis it was difficult to find non-professional discussion on film theory, which is why choosing Black Swan as a focal point was a big help. As a film which arguably straddles the line between “independent” and “studio”, it’s a good point of reference to see what the general consumer considers to be an artistic film.topics

When perusing the IMDb discussion page for this film, you see almost nothing but theories for the open ends this film leaves, users desperately grappling at what “actually happened”. This might be partly because of the film’s subject matter. Since it’s about a girl with mental illness, the reality the girl experiences is constantly in question from the perspective of the audience. It’s hard to say whether IMDb users are a good representation of the public as a whole when analyzing views on independent films, but at least the film consumers who care enough about films to go online and discuss them on IMDb seem to do so for the purpose of clarification and speculation. There is probably some pleasure in the process of theorizing for this audience, so the idea of it being left open is a good thing – there is some unspoken agreement that it’s meant to be questioned and speculated among this crowd. However, the presence of this speculation indicates a desire for some kind of closure of these holes left open, even if only in the head-canon of the individual audience member. This kind of discussion comes across like a coping mechanism for dealing with narrative styles inconsistent with what makes us comfortable.

One unprofessional critic at https://mubi.com/topics/black-swan-discussion-time comments that they felt that the film’s use of the sex scene was “exploitative of the actors”, a criticism which could be easily and often applied to a studio film. This particular critic then says that they “hope Aronofsky’s intentions were purely artistic”. This comment exposes the dichotomy of studio vs. indie relatively well – his decisions were either “exploitative” (with a focus on shock value and thus monetary profit implied) OR “artistic” (a word whose meaning is undefined for this particular critic – but seems to be used as the opposite of exploitative). This particular critic seems to want to place this film’s intentions on either side of that line.


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