Whiplash, Black Swan, and the Structure of Sacrifice and Suffering

By  · Published on November 23rd, 2016

A new video compares the parallels between the two films and their scripts.

If you take away the details and paint both films in broad strokes, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan are pretty much identical. Both take place behind-the-scenes of a creative profession, both feature protagonists who have worked most of their lives towards their creative goals, both protagonists are under the thumb of a harsh mentor, and both ultimately convey as their central message how greatness requires not just talent and discipline, but sacrifice and suffering.

It’s the details that distinguish the films, as do the secondary themes, the directorial style of each, the lighting schemes, the scores and several other technical and aesthetic facets, but on a basic, narrative, and structural level, Whiplash and Black Swan walk the same path through the same scenery.


Though the following video from Michael Tucker’s Lessons from the Screenplay isn’t the first time the comparison between these films has been made, it is the first time I’ve seen the subject tackled from a purely structural point of view, and of course, it’s the first time Tucker has made the comparison, so that alone is worth your time. Through analysis of the characters’ desires, their fears, the expansion of both, the films’ dramatic questions and other elements, Tucker walks us through the films act by act to reveal just how parallel they are, as well as where and how they diverge from one another. Even if you’ve heard some of it before, it’s still a superb examination that posits two of the decade’s most intense, most lauded, and most insane films across from one another like jaded mirror images.

Now, if someone could just get on the parallels between La La Land and Requiem for a Dream…

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