March 31, 2016

How Darren Aronofsky Takes Us Down His Rabbit Hole (NSFW)

Requiem For A Dream
When it comes to Aronofsky, it's all about the sexy spirals and scary symmetry.

Watching a Darren Aronofsky movie can make you feel like a lab rat scurrying around a maze for some of that sweet, sweet cheese. First, we intensely search for meaning; then we take a minute to stare blankly at a wall; and finally we frantically return to navigating our nightmarish labyrinth. It is, more often than not, a frightening and dizzying experience.

So, how much of this feeling can be attributed to the dark thematic matter in Aronofsky's movies, and how much of it can be attributed to composition? 

A video essay from STUDIO LITTLE illustrates the way in which camera movement, blocking, framing, and even the shape of objects collectively contribute to the jarring nature of Aronofsky's films.

Aronofsky employs these techniques in order to enhance intensity. As you can see in the video, leading with a mid-shot—placing the actor perfectly in the middle of the frame—can serve as a moment of calm before the storm. (What comes next is a shot in which either the character or the camera spirals into a descent of madness.) With this method of juxtaposition, Aronofsky dictates when the audience is tense, and when we're allowed to relax.

Aronofsky uses spirals and split screens like horror directors use cheap jump scares—only his particular brand of scares tend to delve deep into the subconscious and grind away at the brain until you have nightmares.

Symmetry in Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain"

Oh, and there was another pretty good director who used to do this kind of stuff, too.      

Your Comment

11 Comments

Such beautiful visuals! Much respect to Aronofsky and his DP.
Hitchcock's Vertigo title sequence has so much influence on his stylistic shots.

What would be the technical process and tools needed to execute a spiral push-out shot?

March 31, 2016 at 2:25PM, Edited March 31, 2:27PM

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Abraham Marquez
Independent Filmmaker
177

That's a damn good question. I'll look into it!

March 31, 2016 at 3:15PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

For the overhead pull out shots featured in the video I would say a jib or crane with a motorized head.

April 1, 2016 at 12:53PM

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Nick Rowland
Street Bum
587

Can you tell me from which movie is the first picture (the one below article's title)?

March 31, 2016 at 3:24PM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1404

Requiem for a Dream

March 31, 2016 at 5:12PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

I'm really surprised. I watched it & I don't remember a frame like this one.

April 1, 2016 at 11:14AM, Edited April 1, 11:14AM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1404

That's because the shot isn't from 'Requiem for a dream' - rather it's a photo from a Swedish-based artist Pro-Non. But the photo was inspired by 'Requiem for a dream'.

You'll find the photo on the artist site:
http://www.pronon.se/

April 11, 2016 at 10:59AM, Edited April 11, 10:59AM

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Hey Jon,
Unfortunately, I think you're mistaken regarding the source of the image.

The photo is by a Swedish-based artist Pro-Non. But the photo was indeed inspired by the film 'Requiem for a dream', but alas not part of the film.

You'll find the photo on the artist site:
http://www.pronon.se/

April 11, 2016 at 11:04AM

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Very nice! I always pity the editor with these kind of films: YOU GOTTA HAVE SOOOO MUCH PATIENCE! That music though

April 1, 2016 at 8:46AM

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Michiel Eskens
Director & Editor
182

Thanks. It was worth.

April 2, 2016 at 10:33AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
744

Aronofsky, Aronofsky, Aronofsky... I think we should at least *mention* the name of Matthew Libatique, who is the DP in all this films and, well, the guy who actually created the visuals we are appreciating in this essay. Just saying.

April 6, 2016 at 4:28AM, Edited April 6, 4:28AM

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David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1312