For this Director’s Week, we decided to have a discussion in which we examine what Darren Aronofsky means to us.
Notable Films: Requiem for A Dream
I can’t remember the first time I saw Requiem for a Dream, but I can guarantee you I was far too young (what is the appropriate age to watch that anyway?). It’s something that easily took a hold of me. It terrified me. There are a few films which some say are so traumatic that you can’t imagine watching it a second time, like Blue Valentine. And like Blue Valentine, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Requiem. Aronofsky’s editing style is like Raimi’s, but on crack. Appropriately so for this film. His “Hip-Hop Montages” which encapsulate the ups and downs of drug use are fascinating, and again, terrifying to watch. This film shows the ugliness of addiction.
Notable Films: Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, & Black Swan
For as long as I can remember, all my friends have always raved about Requiem for a Dream. I have this clear memory of being told at 13 that I absolutely had to watch this movie because of how flawless it was. I tried and failed because of my poor, sensitive soul. Years later, I sat down and bawled my eyes out while watching the destruction of these four addicts. It was an absolutely beautiful film, and I understood why people had been harassing me to watch it for so long. The second film by Darren Aronofsky that I’ve seen is The Wrestler which, to be honest, I did not like as a viewer. I do have to admit that if I dissect it as a critic, I will praise it for two different reasons: the documentary feel and the vulnerable acting from Mickey Rourke. Those aspects were particularly interesting to me. I have come to the realization that half of the time I don’t connect emotionally to Darren Aronofsky’s films. Even when the subject hits home. For example, Black Swan and the artist’s quest for perfection. It seems that I am blocked by his style of directing. It reminds me, in a way, of Bertolt Brecht, who was known in the theatre world for his very direct form of art; whenever the audience was getting emotionally involved in the characters, he would break the 4th wall to remind them that they were watching a play and that they should focus on the actual topic (often politics) rather than getting attached to the characters and their stories. I think that Darren Aronofsky’s style of directing isn’t meant to make us feel but rather make us think, as he often chooses very bold topics for his films.
Notable Films: Pi & Black Swan
While I’ve only seen two of Aronofsky’s films (Pi and Black Swan), I’ve had most of his other films on my list for a while now. I’m not quite sure how I feel about him as a director at this point considering I love one film while I really dislike the other. Black Swan resonated with me a lot because of its exploration of the lengths and depths we push ourselves to achieve greatness. Over the years, and especially after seeing this film, I’ve learned sometimes “good enough” is more than enough. It’s hard to accept that when you want nothing more than to be the best, but there’s a difference between encouraging yourself to be better and forcing yourself to be better. Aronofsky was able to capture beautifully the psychological, emotional, and psychically demanding intricacies of those with a burning passion. Although Pi captured similar concepts, math was far less appealing than gorgeous dancers. My dislike of Pi falls solely on personal interests, which is why I’m still very excited to check out some of his other work.
Notable Films: Noah and Pi
Aronofsky is a director concerned with the Spirit. In all his films, he is striving towards an answer that reconciles that ancient longing of spiritual connection. Often, this is a quest that is marred by conflict (which makes them perfect for movies) where the fragility of human understanding must withstand the immensity of infinite knowledge. Yet, Aronofsky is not so boring that he presents tortured wanderers suffering within long takes and expansive frames. Instead, we are treated to a variety of characters whose search for contentment takes us through the worlds of wrestling, dancing, mathematics, drugs, and, ultimately, the Old Testament. Much like the elegant compromise at the heart of Noah, Aronofsky’s work is a marriage of arthouse thematics and techniques with the mainstream sensibilities of Hollywood. His is an intellect we will have the absolute pleasure of dissecting this coming week.