Returning to my Directors thoughts, I tackle #4 on my list of filmmakers who changed the way I look at movies:
I came to Aronofsky in a weird, roundabout kind of way. It was actually through the efforts of Ed Flynn, the artist of the then virtually unknown Pi: The Book of Ants graphic novel (and, oddly enough, the guy who gave me my first paid writing gig), that I got to know Darren's work. Ed sent me a random e-mail asking if I would be interested in interviewing him to promote the book and I was, at that time, happy to talk to anyone in the industry. He sent me a free preview of the book and a Pi pin (both of which I still have) and I was intrigued enough by the concept and our conversation that I sought out the film, managing to convince a co-worker to go see it with me at a local art house theatre.
The movie was great. On the cheap, high in concept and full of great ideas and a catchy industrial score by Clint Mansell. This was really good stuff. Science, math, faith, ants...I was hooked on this Aronofsky guy. I was eager and excited to see what he would come up with next and it goes without saying that Requiem for a Dream was brilliant and emotionally exhausting. Most stories have the structure where things get dark for your characters but through perseverance and other factors, they rise above their troubles and conquer their problems. Not here. In Requiem things just keep getting worse until they hit rock bottom. And then they keep going down some more. In fact, when we leave all the characters, there is still depths that they will likely sink to and you feel, as a viewer, pretty drained after the experience. The performances by Jared Leto, Jennifer Connely, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn were top shelf, and the 'hip-hop' editing of the movie was stylish and interesting.
Then there is The Fountain which is as beautiful and engaging as it is impenetrable. Aronofsky, again, shows us how good these actors we've seen before can be when given the right direction and material. He once again examines love, faith and gives us scenes that are so heartbreaking it's honestly difficult to watch.
I'm not going to go into his other films because, honestly, I have yet to see The Wrestler or Black Swan, but they are on the list. I have the former and will pick up the latter when time and finances permit. Until then, though, I will close off this little love letter to Darren by saying that he has proven time and again to be one of the medium's most provocative and visually engaging filmmakers. He never shies away from difficult material and is able to think outside the box, something he has been doing since those very early days in New York, trying to make a small movie about God and math and publish his tie-in graphic novel.
I think most of that was gushing but I'm pretty sure I got my point across.