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Darren Aronofsky

Noah – Darren Aronofsky (2014)

Aronofsky seems to want to try something different with every film. This time he took a stab at Hollywood spectacle and I must say, this is by and far his weakest film.

Aronofsky make a somewhat odd variation on the famous Bible story about Noah and the Flood. He starts with explaining why there are good and bad peoples. The bad ones seem to refer to our contemporary mentality and are led by Tubal Cain. Noah -of course- is one of the good guys and he has a dream that warns him of an upcoming calamity.

There is a strange element of stone giants who used to be angels and the apparent pretty drastic plans of God with human kind.

Of course Noah builds his arc. This takes about the first third of the film. When the water comes the adventure moves to the vast oceans.

There is the obligatory Hollywood drama and yawn-inspiring morality and sentimentality.

Indeed, if “Noah” had had another director I would probably have never watched it. If Aronofsky wanted to prove that he can make Hollywood drama, he succeeded. In line with his previous films, this really is a wrong turn though.

Mother! – Darren Aronofsky (2017)

There was so much attention for this film, that I did not think it would be so strange.

Aronofsky made a couple of great films in a variety of genres. “Mother!” is hard to put a genre on though. It starts as a drama with slightly weird elements, but it slowly becomes a thriller or maybe even horror and the story gets stranger and stranger too. Where some other Aronofskys are very strong emotionally, “Mother!” did not work for my like that. It is entertaining though. The film gets so weird that I need to watch it again some time to figure out what the director actually wanted with it.

The story in short. A young woman lives together with a much older man in a gigantic and remote house that she is refurbishing while he is trying to revive his career as a writer. He is a very social person, continuously inviting people to the house, much to the demise of his wife. This inviting of people runs out of hand and then Aronofsky comes with a strange twist at the end.

Certainly not bad. Perhaps a bit too odd to already say if it is really good or not.

Black Swan * Darren Aronofsky (2010)

Aronofsky again made a very different film than he did before. This time we follow the beautiful but undesirable ballet dancer Nina (Natalie Portman). Nina is too much focussed on perfection and ‘doing well’, pushed in that direction by her overly protective mother. When the top cheographer Tomas (Vincent Cassel!!) choses her for both major parts in his new Swanlake, Nina has to develop passion to get that part right. Tomas tries the hard way, but Nina is also helped by Lily. That is to say, in the highly competative world of ballet Lily’s intentions are not clear. Because of all the pressure Nina starts to loose her mind giving Aronofsky the room for some gruely scenes. Yes this is the entire story in a nutshell, but when you followed the director, you will know that the atmosphere of the film is the reason to watch it. Regarding that atmosphere I must conclude that “Black Swan” is the least of Aronofsky’s films. There were hardly any gooseflesh scenes. The film is again great, but did not give me the feeling of any of Aronofsky’s other films. Perhaps that is why this film seems to have given the director a new audience. We saw the film in a room full of elderly people, who may see the winks to his earlier films.

The Fountain * Darren Aronofsky (2006)

The FountainI only recently heard about this film and I put it high on my wishlist. Having seen Aronofsky’s latest film “The Wrestler“, I figured I best just get it from the DVD rental to see what Aronofsky has come up with this time.
“The Fountain” opens superbly with a very vague meditative scene. The rest of the film is very dreamlike with ‘different worlds’ alternating and this reminds a bit Del Toro fantasy like “El Laberinto Del Fauno“. The atmosphere is great, but the film becomes quite sad towards the end. Aronofsky had ones more made a magnificent film very different from his other films. Here we have one for people who like the earlier mentioned director Del Toro and also for people who like mystery/myth films since “The Fountain” also has Mayan myth with a Christian sauce, but also Eastern elements and modern science.
That is the fourth sublime film, Aronofsky is definately one of my favourite directors.

The Wrestler * Darren Aronofsky (2008)

The WrestlerMickey Rourke is great as the veteran show-wrestler Randy “the ram” Robinson in Aronofsky’s latest film. 20 Years after his peak, “The Ram” still does wrestling shows and Aronofsky gives a good insight in that strange world with its vague border between real and played. Besides his wrestling, Randy tries to lead a normal life, but the outside world turns out to hurt more than tricks with staple guns, barbwire or glass. “The Wrestler” starts like a wrestling spectacle, but grows towards being a drama about a troubled man. Rourke’s part is not entirely unlike that in “Sin City“, but he shows that he can still act, also in the dramatical scenes. Aronofsky has again managed to make a film that stays in my head. “The Wrestler” is truely a great film with great acting, a beautiful stripper, pompous wrestling scenes and very subtely a deep look into the world of show wrestling. One minor point: the free-hand filming might give the film more motion/action, but it not a pleasure to watch on the big screen.

π [Pi] * Darren Aronofsky * 1998

I have seen this film when it still played in the cinemas a couple of years ago. Since it is one of my favourite films and after quite some searching I finally have it on video, I thought it would be a good idea to review it afterall.

“Pi” is about a young man called Maximilian Cohen (Sean Gullette) who has had severe headache attacks since he looked into the sun too long at the age of 6. Whether or not this also played part in him turning out to be a mathematic genius, is an unanswered question. As he calls it himself, Max is a “number theorist” and he was taught by his teacher Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis). Sol had a stroke after working too hard on finding a pattern in the digits of Pi and turned out in a cynical philosopher who Max still turns to once in a while.

Max lives by three assumptions which are restated a few times in the film:
1- Mathematics is the language of nature;
2- Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers;
3- If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge.
Therefor there are numbers anywhere in nature.

Doesn’t this remind you of Pythagoras? Well, this greek “mathematician and cult-leader” is shortly mentioned.

Max sees evidence for his assumptions in the “cyclic disease epidemics”, “the wax and way of the karibu populations”, “sunspot cycles”, “the rise and fall of the nile”.

This lead Max to believe to be a pattern in the stockmarket, the finding of which is his goal. Therefor he built a gigantic computer in his appartment (which he called “Euclide”). His efforts draw the attention of two kinds of people. First people interested in this very pattern in the stockmarket. Second, a group of Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) searching for the secret name of God.

Sol speaks about a 216 digit number that his computer spat out when it crashed. Lenny Meyers (the Jew that tries to interest Max) says they are looking for a 216 digit number as the pattern in the Torah. Being written in Hebrew, the Torah is both text and numbers, since in Hebrew every letter is also a number.

Max decides to help the Jews, finds the digits again (he had them when his own computer crashed), but doesn’t want to give it away to either of the selfish groups asking for his help.

The film is shot in black and white and with magnificent progressive camera-work. The soundtrack has great drum and bass sounds by quite well-known artists (Aphex Twin for example). There are wonderful vague scenes in which Max has visions during his attacks and with only a handful of actors or places where the shooting took place, Aronofsky made a brilliant debut. Definitely a

Requiem For A Dream * Darren Aronofsky * 2000

Aronofsky debuted in 1999 with the brilliant movie “Pi“. Those who know and like it as much as I do, will be delighted to hear that Darren’s new movie just started to play in cinemas throughout Europe.

“Requiem” is not shot in black and white like “Pi” and also is not half as mysterious as it’s brilliant predecessor. Actually the story and message of “Requiem” is very simple. This movie is about addiction in several sences of the word. There is a boy named Harry who has been a friend of Tyrone for a long time. They experiment with drugs together and later decide to sell some to make some big money and never have to be a dealer again. Harry has a beautiful girlfriend called Marion who is also a junkie. In the movie you will see these three people going down in the downward spiral of drug-addicts.
Harry’s mother is addicted to television and the idea that some time she will be in her favorite tv-quiz. To be able to get into her red dress again, she starts seeing a doctor who gives her ‘diet-pills’ (three pills for three meals a day) which she gets addicted to and also mother heads towards a total breakdown.

“Requiem” is just as “Pi” shot and cut and pasted with fast, repetitive and disturbing images, strange sounds at hallucinating speed. This time Aronofsky also worked with colors to add to the effect. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are watching a character’s hallucination or if what you see is supposed to be real.

Again a brilliant movie and be sure to go and see it if you can.

The soundtrack is reviewed in the “music reviews” section.