A female performer spirals into insanity as increased pressures in her career cause her to lose grip of herself and reality.
For a lot of people, especially American audiences, this description may bring to mind the 2010 film “Black Swan.” But across the world in Japan and thirteen years earlier, a strikingly similar animated film was made called “Perfect Blue.”
If you’re not a fan of animated films, you might not have seen or even heard of “Perfect Blue,” but the film is considered by many to be Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece and is a must watch for those who are into intense psychological films. “Black Swan” is just as acclaimed, with the film receiving both critical and commercial success.
Both films are great psychological thrillers and are even listed on 99 Mindfuck Movies by The Film Zone, but that’s not where the similarities of these two films end. In fact, the themes, protagonist, and visuals of “Black Swan” seem so similar to “Perfect Blue” that many think that the 2010 film was inspired by the 1997 anime. Darren Aronofsky, director of “Black Swan,” even acknowledges the similarities between the two but denies the influence.
“Black Swan” tells the story of Nina, a passionate ballerina (Natalie Portman) who struggles to maintain her sanity while competing for the main role in “Swan Lake.” Meanwhile, “Perfect Blue” follows Mima, a former pop idol whose sense of reality begins to waiver as she attempts to transition into a career as a serious actress. When looking at the specific details, the two films have different storylines, but the general themes and ideas are very similar.
Both stories feature a female protagonist that hit similar plot points throughout each story. Both characters are put in highly stressful situations that makes them question their identity and ultimately conjure up a doppelganger that messes with their psyche. Just as Nina suffers from the pressures of being a ballerina, Mima is also forced to deal with the strict expectations of being a Japanese idol.
Their personal conflicts also bleed into their professional lives causing them to spiral out of control. In Nina’s case, it comes in the form of her oppressive mother and in Mima’s situation, it’s an obsessive stalker fan. At a certain point, both female protagonists have a sexual awakening after being confined to an innocent image set on them by the people closest to them. At the core of the film, both protagonists have a psychological battle with themselves that results in hallucinations that blurs the lines between fiction and reality.
It’s not only the main characters and themes that make the two movies similar but also in their visual similarities. Even though Aronofsky has denied any claims that he took influence from “Perfect Blue,” it is interesting to note that Aronofsky actually owns the American remake rights for the film. Although he bought the rights to the movie in order to remake a scene in his highly praised film “Requiem for a Dream,” many scenes that show up in “Black Swan” also mirror those in Perfect Blue.
Despite what Aronofsky claims, there’s no denying that “Black Swan” and “Perfect Blue” have some eerily striking similarities, but whether or not the former is inspired by the latter, both films are mind bending masterpieces in their own right.