As the director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting filmmakers of his generation. The director was in attendance at the 54th London Film Festival with his new feature Black Swan and took part in an American Express Screen Talk with Mike Goodridge on stage at BFI Southbank.
Aronofsky talks about his rise to prominence, entering Sundance under the radar to become one of its most famous success stories. While the accomplishment of his debut, Pi, didn't keep Requiem for a Dream from being roundly rejected by financiers, raising the money independently allowed the film to become a testing ground for ideas about impressionistic techniques and subjective points of view. That experimental spirit runs through all of his work and with a focus here on the technical and stylistic challenges of Black Swan, Aronofsky offers some compelling insights.
In trying to pinpoint a unifying theme in his diverse body work, the director puts forward the idea that cinema is about individuals in exceptional conflict. In telling the stories of people who are either made or broken by extreme experience he has been able to stretch actors to their limits and elicit some extraordinary performances. This has become central to his approach, and Aronofsky suggests that it is the fruit of cultivating close and attentive relationships, allowing actors to find a place where they are comfortable to really let go. He talks here at length about the development of Black Swan and contextualises his experience on the film with some fascinating anecdotes that paint a picture of a brilliantly colourful early career.