The Transformation of the Black Swan: Nina’s Magnum Opus



The use of film and literature as a means to understand and amplify unconscious material has been connected to the work of Carl Jung from the inception of his ideas. Darren Aronofsky’s film, The Black Swan, is a wonderful example of how art can reflect both the unconscious processes of the individual as well as those of the collective. The Black Swan has captured the imagination of people around the world. Nominated for nine academy awards and winning in the category of best actress for Natalie Portman, the film will be a jumping off point for the exploration of Jung’s own magnum opus, the Red Book. In this seminar we will explore the archetypal elements of the film beginning with the origins of Aronofsky’s ideas for the film, including the archetype of the double or “the other” and the archetype of the shadow. We will also explore the mythological backdrop of the film, particularly the story and ballet of Swan Lake. Finally we will draw comparisons between Jung’s confrontation with the unconscious culminating in the Red Book and that of the film’s protagonist, Nina, a young ballerina given the opportunity to play the swan queen in Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake. Pressured by the ballet company director to embrace an aspect of her nature which will allow her to play both the white and black swans, Nina descends into a frightening and exhilarating realm of suspicion, betrayal, lust and passion as she confronts her unlived life, both to escape the tyranny of her mother as well in fulfillment of her destiny.


Daniel Ross has worked in the field of Hospice for over 20 years and in health care for over 30 years. His interest in analytical psychology grew from his work with dying patients and in 2008 he completed the Clinical Training Program at the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago. Working as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, he is committed to the integration of Jungian psychotherapy in hospice care and to the training of clinicians as well as the public in the practice and principles of analytical psychology. He serves on the Board of Trustees at the C. G. Jung Center in Evanston, Illinois.

Michael DeMeritt has been a producer, writer & director on numerous film and television projects over the last 20 years. He is a member of the Director’s Guild of America and has served as assistant director on such well known series as LA Law, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. He has won numerous awards including an Emmy recognition certificate for special effects. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Compare and contrast Jung’s concepts of the shadow, anima, & animus and describe how these components of the psyche interact with the ego.

  2. Describe a psychological understanding of the film the Black Swan by Aronofsky, including it’s mythological references and archetypal elements.

  3. Describe the technique of active imagination and how to apply it in study of film as an art form and how it can be used to connect with both one’s own unconscious material as well as that of the collective.

Outline of Talk:

Aronofsky’s Magnum Opus-Origins of Idea for Black Swan

  • Dostoyevsky’s The Double
  • Swan Lake Ballet
  • Film influences Red Shoes, Repulsion
  • Convergence of film genres: art, horror and psychological thriller

Mythological Amplification

  • Psychology of the Kore, Persephone and Demeter
  • Mythology of Lilith, the first woman rejected by Adam
  • Fairy Tales – Grimm’s Rapunzel, Intuit Tale of Sedna the Princess of the Sea

Mythological Amplification (Continued)

  • Shadow-work as apprentice-piece and Anima-work as master-piece.
  • Jung’s Redbook and the Black Swan

Alchemy of the Black Swan

  • Coniunctio of ego and shadow
  • Monstrum as result of lesser coniunctio
  • Nigredo, albedo and rubedo
  • Nina’s Magnum Opus


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “The Transformation of the Black Swan: Nina’s Magnum Opus”