Video Essay: Social Anthropology In Narratives of Darren Aronofsky
From the outset, the films of Darren Aronofsky seem as different from each other as any filmography can be. There’s the microbudget black and white feature debut Pi; the drug-addled, head-spinning Requiem For A Dream; the ambitious, time-spanning love odyssey that is The Fountain; the Dardenne Brothers-influenced intimacy of The Wrestler; the psycho-sexual ballet drama Black Swan; the upcoming biblical retelling of Noah’s Ark in Noah. However, if you consider Aronofsky’s educational background, namely his majoring in film and social anthropology during his undergraduate days at Harvard University, the visual DNA of his entire body of work becomes clearer. Each of his films follows a visual mapping that demonstrates the anthropological study of cultural continuity; they depict rituals (the drug use in Requiem, the spectator sport of Wrestler), symbolic behaviors (the time traveling of Fountain, the repeating paradigms and motifs in Pi), gender relations (Black Swan) and resurgent religiosity (Noah). In fact, while Aronofsky is revered for having an eclectic body of work that centers on supremely independent and strong protagonists that foil one another, his visual canon is more interested in exploring the ambiguities and conflicts of a broader social life—if not a more universal social experience.
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