Darron Aronofsky: preliminary thesis ideas

Stories are a network of words that when used in a certain way creates meaning, and a version of reality. Film is a network of pictures that when used in a certain way does likewise. A film like The Fountain, despite its fantastical nature, may be constructed in a way that is considerably closer to my own experience of reality than, say, a Disney film. As Jean Baudrillard once quipped Disneyland was invented to disguise the fact that the United States is just one great big amusement ride built to distract us from the true state of our lives. Aronofsky, as an auteur, does quite the opposite. His films remind and reveal the true state of our lives.

After a preliminary search one thing I noted is that there is not a great deal written about Darren Aronofsky’s films (at an academic level) which is surprising. Yet, there is a lot written about the tropes he explores, in particular paranoia and alienation. I feel that Aronofsky explores these themes in a unique way using different methods and structures, consciously or not, that appear to differ with each film he makes. For example the structure, style, and narrative of Pi is completely different from Black Swan yet both are fine examples of “paranoid cinema”. Likewise, his other three feature films The Wrestler, The Fountain, and Requiem for a Dream achieve a high level of discourse with its spectator. Aronofsky appears to obtain a deep level of subtext that gives the knowledgable viewer a sense of catharsis, and it is this that I would like to explorer further.

What I like about his films on a conscious level are far less revealing than what appeals to me at an unconscious level. What intrigues me is that it feels like his movies have an unconscious. Obviously, Aronofsky himself has an unconscious, but as the director he would not necessarily be working entirely from it. While he might be aware of his films subtext, there is a deeper subtext still that comes from the relationship between the spectator and the film. However, I suspect that Aronofsky is a director that is more party to this relationship than usual. I want to explore what these deeper subtexts are, and the extent to which they deal with the conflict between the conscious and subconscious mind of the protagonist and how they manifest themselves as paranoia and alienation. At what stage does the subconscious and conscious of the director appear? How, if at all, are they intertwined within their texts and subtexts. Are they at odds with each other or exist in harmony? Does this show a new reality? How?