Darren Aronofsky is one of the most cryptic directors of the last twenty years. Not always appreciated by critics, however, his directorial style with fragmented montages, close-ups and claustrophobic shots managed to win over a large share of the public.
Not only director, but often also screenwriter of his works, Aronofsky stands out for his strong and raw themes, which often speak of obsessions and addictions, sensations that it gives us with dark and closed settings and with a photograph that seems to personify one of the key characters for the story line. The characters manage to take on scary connotations, dragging us into a dark vortex.
Released on February 23rd his latest film, The Whale, let’s review together which films we consider to be his three best.
3. The Whale
The Whale is Darren Aronofsky’s latest film released on February 23 in Italy and which brought the protagonist, Brendan Fraser, to the nomination for the gold statuette for Best Actor for the 2023 Oscars. The film tells us the harrowing story of Charlie, a brilliant online English teacher, confined at home due to his obesity, inability to move freely and shame towards his appearance.
The film is entirely shot in Charlie’s small house in Idaho, from which he doesn’t need to leave. The curtains always closed and with few lights to illuminate the edges, the house becomes the perfect setting and mirror of the state of mind of the character. Determined to mend his relationship with his daughter, Charlie receives few visits, most of which are from his close friend and nurse, Liz, who hopefully helps him with medical supplies and necessary expenses.
The Whale it’s a dark journey through the physical difficulties of a sick person and of trying to deal with all the psychological obstacles that have been dragging on for a long time. Brendan Fraser’s interpretation is amazing, he manages to touch deep chords, uniting a multitude of emotions that are difficult to interpret with a single glance.
Mother! is the penultimate film by Aronofsky, released in 2017 and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Unfortunately not appreciated by the critics, Mother! is an intense, raw and scary metaphorical journey used as a critical reflection on societythrough the clash of humanity, religion and nature.
The story is difficult to summarize as it is broad and open to many interpretations, but we can say that it shows us a couple, Him and the mother (names of the protagonists already indicative of the metaphorical imprint of the film), newly weds who finally move into the new and peaceful country house. The woman would like to make some changes to the house, to embellish it and make it more welcoming, but the arrival of two strangers, Man and Woman, ruins the balance leading to tragic consequences.
Mother! it’s a total allegory in which we can witness the creation of the world, both scientifically and religiously, with God and Mother Nature trying to take care of their home, the Earth, but the arrival of people with their meanness and disrespect, turns the house into a nightmare, everything falls into disrepair. A journey that leads us to reflect on the condition of today’s society, between wars, climate change, discrimination and so on, all elements that are represented in the form of anguish and nightmare.
1. Requiem for a dream
Requiem for a dream it is the director’s second film, dated 2000, which has certainly brought him fame. The film already contained all the distinguishable traits of Aronofsky’s directorial authorshipaddiction, obsession, fragmented and fast editing, double images and the incessant fall of the human being.
The story develops in three chapters, named after the different seasons with the exception of Spring, as it symbolizes rebirth and positivity, thus implicitly declaring the failure of the human being. Requiem for a dream revolves around the story of Sara, played by Ellen Burstyn, who is obsessed with her favorite TV show, her son Harry (Jared Leto) who is a heroin addict, his girlfriend Marion and his friend Tyler.
The subdivision into seasons represents precisely the different phases of the human mind, of how we tend to cling to dreams obsessively to fill emotional gaps, of how addictions are not only hidden in substances but also in anything that is able to make us hope for a better future. The wide-angle close-up shots clearly give us back the idea of oppression and lack of ways out. With Requiem for a dream Aronofsky has certainly set the foundations of what will later be the trend of his cinematography.