Monday, February 21, 2011

Aronofsky does not create for the casual viewer

I was reminded of this essay and the catharsis I experienced, when I watched Aronofsky's latest film, Black Swan. His technique remains basically the same, gut-wrenching moments, a memorable overture, and shock.

Written in 2003.

Take a book. Internalize it. Add perspective. Personalize it. Shake. Visualize it. The essence of Requiem for a Dream on the screen becomes reality.

I had no idea what I would experience that night: the trauma my mind would be put through, the roller coaster of emotions I would feel. It was a sad movie, people repeatedly told me, a really sad movie, but what was I to do? It sounded enthralling, and I had heard it was good, really good. No one could put his finger on the right word. No one could explain. I had no clue.

Hit play.

A look and I broke down. After five minutes of staring at credits rolling, shocked, not being able to think, breathe, cry, speak, I broke down. I curled up into fetal position and cried. I cried for the world, for the addicted, for the abused, for the misled, for myself. I cried because there was nothing else I could do. I cried because words seemed wrong at that moment.

Few words were uttered, and I began to read. I read out of wonder, awe, and curiosity. I could not comprehend what had just taken place in my mind, what had happened. I read for answers. I read for freedom. I read because words seemed wrong at that moment. I read because I was addicted and couldn’t speak.

The reading added thoughts, themes, love. I went from being distressed and unnerved to elated and euphoric; then back again. Laughing, crying, sobbing, staring, I comprehended. I connected. I loved. I hated.

A road block. I stopped reading. I didn’t want to. I wanted to quit school. I wanted to read and read, to read not only Requiem (as I had so affectionately termed it), but all of Selby’s work. I wanted to read until the sky turned red. Addicted, I carried the book around until I could read again. I was irritable. I hated work. I hated school. I hated Thomas Hardy. I hated anything that kept me from reading.


Finally! I could read again. I had to read. The reading sustained me. It gave me reprieve during my breaks. Requiem helped me to survive those long nights. Then it ended.

It just ended. I had finished, but I didn’t feel an ending. I was in shock. I couldn’t cry; although I wanted to. I couldn’t read; there was no more. I had to let it soak in before I watched the movie again.

I waited.

That was Thursday night. I worked on Friday. By Saturday the book still hadn’t sunk in. There was no end. There was a conclusion but no end. The last section was forced. It couldn’t end.

Hit play.

Notes: The first lines are the same. They used actual lines quite frequently. The satisfaction. Flash through the first half of the book and then delve, connect, appreciate. Love. Marion and Harry really love each other, it is visible in their faces, eyes, body language. Amazing screenplay, cinematography, acting: intense, piquant, horrific. I wanted to stop watching. I’d seen it before. I knew what was to happen.



The book and movie compliment each other. I understand. I heard the same story from two different people. Different tools. Pictures versus words. Music versus language. Sight versus imagination. Different ways of telling the same story.

Selby used writing. His form of communication; a unique style that acquaints the reader and then immerses him into dialog and setting. Both are connected so closely that the reader feels present. Not as if the scene were being described, but more realistic, like he is there internalizing the scene. The reader becomes involved.

But where the book involves the reader, the movie imprisons the watcher. Impulse. Addiction. It enables an unknown world to be comprehended. Relate. Not one piece on the set or one action or thought of the actors is random. Every unpainted wall, every movement, every thought, every spec of dust has meaning. The actors are no longer actors, they have become Harry or Marion or Sara. Thoughts can be seen in their gestures, on their faces.

Details from the book are left out while others are added, but the viewer knows it is the same story. Nothing is upsetting about the adjustments and adaptations. There is no room for scrutiny. There is no room for independent thought. Deciphering Requiem’s themes are the viewer’s sole purpose; Aronofsky maintains complete control.

Control of emotions. Controlled chaos. Control through flashing cinematography and heartfelt music. Pushing the viewer right to the edge. Forcing her to look down. The pit. The empty darkness of a life not lived. The sorrow of a life dreamed away. This outer limit doesn’t inspire the viewer (that’s the wrong word), but demands her to remain under the control of two perspectives, two men: the Selby and the Aronofsky.

The release.

And the message must be decoded. Live life. Don’t dream life. Love the intangible. The overture runs on, continuing in the viewers mind. Reminding her to live, to have vision. Reminding her to experience, to not sit around letting life pass her by. The major theme of the book was not lost. The adaptation remains a success, more then a success, a masterpiece, a work of art.

Requiem for a Dream must be pondered, loved, hated, and internalized. Aronofksy does not create for the casual viewer.


  1. I curled up and cried after seeing this movie struck me so deeply. You write of it beautifully ^_^

  2. I watched Requiem for a Dream with the guys in highschool. It definitely moved me, but not to this point. Isn't Black Swan suppose to be a horror flick?

  3. Definitely not a horror flick as far as my sensibilities are concerned. There are some definite gruesome parts, but no imagery that kept me up at night. This is the completely arbitrary way I classify something as horror.

  4. The main score from that movie sometimes haunts me out of nowhere.