It all starts with a movie called “Requiem for a Dream”. A favorite actor of mine, Jared Leto (also the lead singer/guitarist of 30 Seconds To Mars) stars in it, so naturally, I decided one afternoon to watch it with some friends. And boy, what a movie!
The central theme is addiction: to drugs, to ideals, to dreams, any and every addiction you can think of. It revolves around a guy, his mother and two of his friends, who already are in too deep, and the inevitable downward spiral they all go through, until all hope is lost.
While I don’t know much about filming techniques, I can recognize something special and unique when I see it. And I saw that in “Requiem for a Dream”. Curious, I pay Wikipedia a visit, discover that the director is Darren Aronofsky, and read the following:
Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film. While an average 100-minute film has 600 to 700 cuts, Requiem features more than 2,000. Split-screen is used extensively, along with extremely tight closeups.
In order to portray the shift from the objective, community-based narrative to the subjective, isolated state of the characters’ perspectives, Aronofsky alternates between extreme closeups and extreme distance from the action and intercuts reality with a character’s fantasy. Aronofsky aims to subjectivise emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalisation rather than alienation.
One other thing that captures my attention is the haunting and moving soundtrack, composed by Clint Mansell: it is in perfect harmony with the spirit of the movie, and it defines every scene in such a disturbing and dark, yet genius way. It includes the superb “Lux Aeterna”, now one of my favorite instrumental tracks:
In awe of the level of sheer talent at work, I delve further and further into the world of Darren Aronofsky.
I start by watching his first movie, called “π” (or Pi, the mathematical constant): the theme of addiction and self-destructive behavior finds a home in the mind of a number theorist who believes that everything in nature can be understood through numbers. Shot entirely in black and white (although filmed in 1998), it has received high critical praise and a directing award. It is also the movie that launched Clint Mansell’s career. From then on, the duo will collaborate on every film.
Aronofsky’s third movie, “The Fountain”, explores other themes: science fiction, religion and philosophy. Three storylines are intertwined and played by the same actors (Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz): a modern-day scientist and his cancer-stricken wife, a conquistador and his queen, and a space traveler in the future who longs for his lost love. It is actually my least favorite movie of his, but again, he never fails to amaze me with his innovative and creative imagery and directing techniques.
His latest movie, and the most famous one, is of course “Black Swan”, starring Nathalie Portman and Mila Kunis. This psychological thriller revolves around the production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Only this version of the famous ballet has a twist: the white swan and the black swan are to be played by the same ballerina. As two ballerinas compete for the part, one of them gets in touch with her dark side and… you guessed it, hell ensues! Once again, we witness a character shredding herself to parts… The hauntingly mesmerizing contrast between horror and fragile beauty is at its peak.
The only film of his that I have yet to watch is “The Wrestler“, starring Mickey Rourke. It is next on my list, and I expect it to be brilliant!
So now you know who Darren Aronofsky is! I encourage you to discover his movies, but I must warn you, they are not made for the faint at heart! Pay attention to the music progression, it makes the whole experience that much more unforgettable. And most importantly, let me know what you think!