Time and again I find that movies, whether we like them or not, can teach us important life lessons. It is really interesting how much we can learn if we just stop to listen.

Yesterday, I had the dubious pleasure of watching Black Swan. I couldn’t decide whether it was more melodrama or horror movie. Two genres I’m not particularly fond of. The first is really depressing, and the second scares me. I didn’t make it through to the end. However, here is what I learned:

Creativity and Environment

I think the film shows nicely how creativity just does not flourish in environments that are competitive, authoritarian, and filled with pressure to perform. It is great if people are enthusiastic about their art (which I’m equating here with creative work since that is what it is). However, how can you be creative and passionate about your art/creativity if you are constantly rebuked and screamed at and push yourself so hard that your body starts protesting viciously. Creativity cannot be forced. And if the environment does not nurture creativity, how can bosses and teachers wonder why nothing creative comes out?

Life Outside Creativity

Creative projects/art are great, and they are and should be an integral part of our lives as they have the potential to inspire us and bring us joy. However, when it starts replacing life, that is not good. The protagonist does not seem to have any social life outside her ballet. How can she incorporate passion into her performance if she never experiences any passion in her life?

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living. (Anaïs Nin)

I think it is passion and experience that makes creative projects good. If someone plays the piano and puts all his heart into the performance and feels the emotions of the song, that’s when it starts to be fun—both for the artist and for the audience. Always wanting to be perfect takes all the fun out of it and thus the result suffers as well. The performance becomes mechanical. Maybe technically flawless, but devoid of emotion.

Joyful Creativity

The process of creating should be enjoyable. If we have to force ourselves too hard, something is wrong. Maybe the protagonist should consider if this is really her dream that she is pursuing so ruthlessly, or whether she is living the dream of her mother who keeps telling her how she gave up her career for her. If we are intrinsically motivated, we sometimes may have to give ourselves a little push to go about it, but then we enjoy it. If we don’t, maybe it is not the right thing for us. Or not the right environment.

That’s probably not news, but since this movie is not too unrealistic where these matters are concerned, I think it is good to be reminded of this from time to time.