On Natalie Portman
Description: On Ms. Natalie Portman.
Created: July 24th 2005
Notes: Spoilers to the referenced movies are included in this article.
I've had an admiration of Ms. Natalie Portman since I first saw either Mars Attacks or, more likely, The Professional (aka Léon). In this short article, I'll be focusing on the type of character that I believe Natalie Portman plays. To argue my point, I'll be drawing upon a number of movies that she has starred in. These movies will be The Professional, Heat, Garden State, and Star Wars Episode I, II, and III. Note that spoilers are contained within this article.
In The Professional, Ms. Portman plays Mathilda, a young girl, whose family is killed by members of New York's finest. She turns to Léon to help protect her, and hopes that he will help her take revenge on the cop that killed her little brother, the only person that she says she misses. During their time together, they both begin to develop feelings for the other, leading to Léon sacrificing his life for her.
Ms. Portman's part in Heat is fairly small. In this movie, she plays Lauren, the step-daughter of Al Pacino's character, Vincent Hanna. We see her preparing for her father, and worrying about looking okay while getting ready for him, getting picked up after her father didn't pick her up, and being rushed to the hospital after trying to kill herself.
In Garden State, Portman plays Sam, a young girl who finds potential love in main character Andrew. In but a few short days the two develop a great bond, during which Andrew is made to once again, or perhaps for the first time, feel alive. While initially leaving Sam to get things straightened out in his life, Andrew ends up not leaving and instead stays with her, hoping to be able to find a path together.
In the three Star Wars films that Portman is in, she plays Padmé, Queen and then Senator of Naboo, love of Anakin Skywalker, and mother to Leia and Luke Skywalker. In Episode III, driven to save Padmé, Anakin eventually turns on her, breaking her heart and almost crushing her throat, and it is the former that eventually takes her life.
While she plays other parts, in other movies, since I have either not watched or do not believe that they should be taken seriously (Mars Attacks comes to mind for the latter point), I will leave the sources at the above.
My belief is that all of these movies have one thing in common when it comes to Ms. Natalie Portman - in all of them Portman plays a character who is both innocent and a 'lover', or one who loves. In fact, her best parts are where this comes out.
The Professional is one of the most obvious cases, and not just because she is young, and plays a young character. After living a hard life, with a family that doesn't love her, save her young brother, Portman is brought into a relationship with a man who has never really loved - who has, in fact, been convinced to not love, as, which is the case, it will merely get him in trouble. While she acts out, she does it, perhaps, because she wants to test his love. Yet, at the end, her heart is broken as he ends up sacrificing himself to save her. While he doesn't do it intentionally, he still lives on long enough to do it.
As stated before, Portman's part in Heat is extremely short. Yet, she still plays a character true to this assessment. Having already lost her parents to one divorce, she sees her mother's new relationship being brought apart as well. In addition, her father finds himself too busy to spend time with her, leading her to believe that perhaps she is the problem. She ends up attempting to take her life in her new 'father's' place, perhaps as a crying out to the one who does seem to care about her, yet in a gruff way, and perhaps as a sacrifice to bring her mother and he together again, something that she almost succeeds in accomplishing, but that she cannot completely arrange, due to forces beyond her control (namely the nature of what he is and what he does). How she continues on is left mostly to us, and I will leave it at that, since I do not believe that her life will turn out for the best, but I do not think that it will be a short life either.
In Garden State she plays a very similar role as the one she played and plays in Star Wars. In Garden State she is a guiding light to Andrew, showing him what it is to love and live. Together they open up, she learns to stop lying to and about herself, and he learns to love some part of the world that he had never known before. While it looks like Andrew will leave her at the end, which would most certainly lead towards a regression of the progress that he had made, and towards the walls being brought up once more by Sam, he takes the choice of living a life of love, instead. While we are lead to believe that the two will be together for a long time, I also believe that we can see this as a way for the two to eventually be able to live in the world, even without each other, yet needing each other to get to any such point.
In Star Wars, Portman starts off by playing the Queen of Naboo, and as such extremely rigid to external eyes, yet really quite soft and unsure of herself when left to those that she trusts. Undoubtedly, it is because she is in such a place of power at such an age that she must mask her doubts and questionings. However, if you look closely enough, you see that her rigid mask is a little too rigid, and her act is a little too forced - the farce is revealed. As she ages, she falls in love with Anakin, yet is being pushed away as much as she is being drawn in by him. She is unsure if she can open herself up to the world, especially since she believes that her love is not quite enough for even Anakin, the one who proclaims to love her, for he continually wants the world to see him as something more than what he is, leading her to believe that she isn't enough for him to be happy. His greatest achievement occurred when he was young, and he is seen as being the one who will bring balance to the world, and these things are the things by which he is judged, just as Padmé is judged as a leader, instead of one who sometimes needs some leading as well. In the end, Anakin eventually turns on her, breaking her heart, allowing jealousy and fear to lead him, and leading up to the her death.
In all of these cases, Portman is an innocent. While she portrays rigidness in Star Wars, the mask is barely kept in place. In all of the other movies she also tries to portray a wall of resistance, but none of them stand for too long to close scrutiny.
She is also a lover, or one who is seen as being one who loves. In many cases, this leads to her destruction, even though she is able to know some kind of love for a short time. Garden State is the only exception to this rule, as we are lead to believe that just perhaps she has found love for the extended future.
Looking briefly at the one other movie that I've seen that she is in but that I did not here include, Mars Attacks, one sees something of her innocence and her love in this movie as well. She starts off being a quiet President's daughter, and ends up being the only one from the Presidential family who is still alive, having the honours of awarding those who put an end to the attack. In addition, she appears to have some kind of feelings for the young hero. Yet, the feelings that we see in her other movies are nowhere as strong, and the similarities therefore end at the above. Since Mars Attacks is a spoof or parody, I believe that we are not to put as much faith into the movie, especially since there is little real character development, beyond the typical B-movie development.
Since I've never been real good at writing conclusions, I'll end it at that.
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