‘Swan Song’ is a film about love, death, acceptance, and an unconventional second chance. Having been diagnosed with a terminal disease, graphic designer/illustrator Cameron Turner (Mahershala Ali) doesn’t know how to break the news to his wife, Poppy (Naomie Harris), who has just recovered from the death of her twin Andre. As the story is set in the near future, certain technologies have become available, including human cloning and memory transference from one individual to another. Cameron decides to contact a facility run by Dr. Scott (Glenn Close) so he can have a clone replace him in the lives of Poppy and their son Cory.
‘Swan Song’ offers an earnest depiction of a man dealing with the prospect of imminent death, albeit in a science fiction setting. The film’s title encompasses its major themes. Here is what you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.
What Is the Meaning of the Swan Song Title?
The phrase “Swan Song” refers to a metaphorical concept that denotes the last action, gesture, or performance (with artists) by someone on the threshold of retirement or death. The phrase can be traced back to ancient Greece. It was believed that swans didn’t make any sound until before the moment of their deaths when they finally sang a melancholic and beautiful note. Contrarily, some people used to think that swans did make noises throughout their lives, but they weren’t particularly musical until the time prior to their deaths. Around the 3rd century BC, the phrase garnered such prominence that it transformed into a proverb. In the ensuing centuries, it has appeared in numerous pieces of literature and art.
Of course, the beautiful story about swans singing before the moment of their death isn’t real. The Greeks of antiquity were leaders in artistic and philosophical thinking and creativity. According to the ancient Greek religion, swans were sacred to the sun god Apollo, so they served as the symbol of beauty and harmony. As they aren’t singers, singing was relegated to be performed by the songbirds. The legend of the Swan Song makes appearances in works such as Plato’s ‘Phaedo;’ Aeschylus’ Agamemnon;’ and ‘The Swan and the Goose,’ one of Aesop’s fables.
In real life, most of the subspecies of swans make a diverse range of noises in the course of their lives, and it’s not exclusive to the moment before their deaths. However, exceptions to this do exist; subspecies like the whopper swans, trumpeters, and tundra swans are known to let out drawn-out series of calls in the moments before their deaths, with the first group probably serving as the origin of the myth, and by extension, the proverb.
In the film, the phrase denotes the central plot device: Cameron letting his clone Jack replace him in Poppy and Cory’s life. The death of Poppy’s twin, Andre was devastating for the Turner family. Poppy underwent a severe bout of depression, during which she stayed in a separate room, making Cameron feel alienated. Even Cory felt the effect of the turmoil. Eventually, Poppy sought therapy, and things got better. When the film starts, Poppy is pregnant with their second child.
Cameron refuses to put his family through the same ordeal and chooses to have himself cloned. But as his memories are imprinted into Jack’s mind, and the latter is awakened, Cameron can’t help but feel envy. At one point, he once more wonders whether he should go back to his wife and tell the truth. He decides to visit his family to say a final goodbye but has a seizure in front of his house. When he wakes up, he discovers that Jack has already replaced him. Initially angry, frustrated, and afraid, Cameron eventually learns that his family will be alright without him. He even gets another chance to say his goodbyes. Jack is his final gift to them, his swan song.
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