Top Ten Directors of the Now – Darren Aronofsky
Part of a series by G-FUNK
And so we reach the ninth member of our Ten Most Interesting Directors of the Now – Darren Aronofsky. Another directors whose work is defining this generation of film-makers and keeping us returning the cinema time and time again.
Aronofsky is one of the most interesting entries onto this list. Although he seems to skirt around major Hollywood franchises that never quite seem to pan out, many of which seem at odds with his own unique style that seems better suited to the artistic films that he has produced thus far. This highly stylised approach to cinematography would certainly add a breath of fresh air to the mostly faded franchises (more on those later), but in the meantime he’s delivered some of the most memorable and most discussed films of the past decade.
Born in Brooklyn Aronofsky showed a keen interest and high aptitude in a wide range of areas. Showing an early interest in theatre he also trained as a field biologist in Kenya and Alaska whilst in high school. He moved onto Harvard University majoring in social anthropology whilst also studying live action film and animation before earning his MFA directing degree from the AFI Conservatory.
Following up a series of short student films Aronofsky embarked on his first feature film: Pi. Bypassing the studio system the film was funded using $100 donations from friends and family (each promised $150 return if the movie made a profit) that gave him a budget of $60,000. The story of a paranoid mathematician struck a chord with critics and audiences, seeing it taking the Best Director award at Sundance. The montages made up of short shots (termed ‘hip-hop’ montages) set the film apart from the rest of the market.
Building on this success Aronofsky was able to draw in funding and famous actors for his follow up film, Requiem for a Dream. This drug fuelled odyssey reused the Hip-hop montage technique in addition to a high volume of split-screen and extreme close ups. The film was found to be highly impactful for viewers, forcing them into confrontation sequences that were heightened by the high number of shots (almost four times more than the average). Like Pi the movie was a break out hit, garnering multiple award nominations and wins for both Aronofsky and actress Ellen Burstyn, among others.
Following this Warner Bros. approached Aronofsky with the first of many big name films he would be offered. He was hired to write and direct the fifth Batman movie, a prequel based on Frank Miller’s comic series ‘Batman Year One’. Aronofsky brought Miller on board to co-write the script as they had previously collaborated on a film script for Ronin. The director wanted to throw out the previously established franchise and reboot the series as something more realistic. He even approached Christian Bale to play the lead role. Warner Bros. then decided to drop the project in favour of Batman vs Superman project which never developed.
It’s hard to tell how well the Aronofsky Batman reboot would hold up against Nolan’s Batman Begins but reports suggest that it would’ve been a different beast altogether. Bruce Wayne was a homeless orphan who uses low-fi equipment to fight crime with the aid of Big Al – a mechanic standing in for Alfred.
Following this debacle Aronofsky moved onto another project destined for turbulent waters. Originally green lit by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, it starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett with the title being kept secret. When Blanchett left the production due to pregnancy the film was delayed by a year and moved to Australia, and Village Roadshow withdrew their involvement. New Regency stepped in, only for Pitt to leave the film weeks before cameras rolled. It wasn’t until another two years had passed that the film was resurrected with half the budget and Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz filling the lead roles. The Fountain was eventually released to a strong box office reception and fervent discussion among critics and viewers. To this day it remains highly divisive.
Aronofsky’s next project was The Fighter, which he approached Christian Bale for before dropping out himself (seriously, is he allergic to Bale or something?) due to the similarities it had to his long-term project The Wrestler. Aronofsky focused his attention on this film. Having always envisioned Mickey Rourke for the role of Randy The Ram, he was given a swerve ball when Nicolas Cage entered negotiations for the part. After a discussion with the director Cage stepped aside and showed nothing but support for the project.
After more than ten years work, Aronofsky released The Westler in 2008 where it won the Golden Lion award. The movie was a massive success, launching Aronofsky into the mainstream and revitalising the careers of Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Amid all the award nominations the movie went on to become a box-office smash making almost $45,000,000 off its $6,000,000 budget.
Aronofsky’s next film, Black Swan, opened the Venice film festival where it received a standing ovation. The director saw more success and awards follow this ballet-set psychological thriller. In his more recent films Aronofsky has moved away from the stylised Hip-Hop montages and split screens to create a measured, evenly paced film experience that draws out the narrative instead of creating a high impact experience. This is part of the reason that Aronofsky’s mainstream appeal has been on the rise.
This isn’t to say that he isn’t without style. Each movie carries a unique colour palette that lays the foundation for the style of each film. The best example being the black and white motif used in Black Swan which reflects the split personality of the main character. It’s easy to see how the director has matured over the years making each new offering a richer viewing experience than the last. Needless to say anything he’s got on the way is worth looking forward to.
As stated before Aronofsky has been involved in some major franchises over the years. In addition to his work developing Batman Year One he spent some time involved in a remake of Robocop (not that we need one) for MGM that he left due to the company’s future being uncertain. More recently he was hired to direct The Wolverine, a sequel to the abysmal spin-off from the X-Men series. With Aronofsky on board fan expectations were high but he left the film last year.
Now that The Wolverine and Robocop are off the table for the director, Aronofsky is working on a HBO series called Hobgoblin concerning a group of magicians and con artists using their powers to defeat Hitler – which sounds like a contender for most amazing thing ever. Also on the books is an epic film about Noah’s Ark. Little information exists at the present time, except that Christian Bale was rumoured to be involved because the director hasn’t learned to stay away from that guy. Whoever winds up in the role, it’s something that’ll be worth watching.