J-Term Journal: Fading to Black (Swan)

To celebrate the end of the semester, my roommate Anna and I caught a late showing of “Black Swan” at ...
By Molly O. Fitzpatrick

To celebrate the end of the semester, my roommate Anna and I caught a late showing of “Black Swan” at the Loews Boston Common. I really, genuinely loved the movie; I found it intensely unsettling. So unsettling, in fact, that I fainted.

My heart had pounded throughout the film, but with one well-placed shard of mirror glass, I was suddenly and deeply nauseated. When the credits began to roll, I knew I wasn’t right. Anna waited beside me as I sat with my head between my knees. After half a minute or so, I stood up and took a few wobbly steps, insisting that I was ready to walk out of the theater.

It is then, I’m told, that I dropped like dead weight onto the carpet.

I came to in mid-air a few seconds later, as a merciful stranger carried me into the lobby. He deposited me on a counter between napkin and straw dispensers, and Anna brought me a large cup of water begrudgingly provided by the concessions staff. I felt like a Southern belle overcome with the vapors, with neither the elegance nor the drawl one might hope would come as part of that package. Happily, I sustained only a skinned knee, a small bruise above my lip, and a liberal dusting of popcorn salt on my cheek.

When I was younger, I would pass out as a matter of course whenever my blood was drawn. But that was years ago, and as an adult, I hardly have a delicate constitution when it comes to movies—Joe Pesci is brutally murdered in more than one of my favorite films. And, besides, I wouldn’t call “Black Swan” gory. In fact, Darren Aronofsky’s rediscovery of the body is all in the grotesque details, in blistered toes and hangnails. It’s that quotidian awfulness that really got to me, but ironically, it’s also what made me like the movie so much in the first place.

I’ve cried in theaters more times than I could ever count—the thought of George Bailey scooping Zuzu into his arms is making me tear up a little as I write this—but, until recently, I had never fainted. What a strange thing: to respond to a film on a truly visceral level, when I’m guilty of watching most of my movies through Netflix Instant View, as one of many open windows competing for attention on my computer screen.

I hope that, for everyone else in the theater, my performance served to make the experience that much more real, as an unintentional Act IV—just another 20-something brunette in the apparent midst of a nervous breakdown—or future conversation fodder for cocktail parties. “Black Swan?’ Oh, dear. When we went to see that movie”—[pause for dramatic effect]—“a girl collapsed.”

I’m sure my doctor would tell me that my fainting was largely the result of the dehydration that follows the consumption of a lot of paper-fueling caffeine and a sizable cherry ICEE. But I’d like to think of it, at least on some level, as a physical testament to the power of the film—I was transported as much as I ever will be. And that is sort of amazing.

Nevertheless, as you might imagine, I have no intention of seeing “127 Hours.”