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Text: Margarita Horvey

“People, since the time they acquired consciousness, ask the question, “What is going to be when we die?”

His first film, the “Math thriller” ? brought him an award as best director in Sundance. He made ? with a laughingly small budget of $60.000 that he partly collected by selling shares in the future picture for $100 to his friends and relatives. The next, also dramatically successful movie, Requiem for a Dream, already had a budget of $4.500.000. His latest picture, the Fountain, was planned to be worth $70.000.000 but when Brad Pitt ran away to work with Inarritu in Babylon, the studio cut the budget in half. Luckily this did not reflect on the artistic quality of the film and the cult status of Aronofsky.

Before these in many senses fantastic pictures, in the life of Darren there are his early graduation from school and the traveling to the Promised Land. He hoped to pick avocado in Israel but was made to work at a poisonous plastic plant. Young Zionist as he was, he worked for a couple of days and escaped to Jerusalem where orthodox Hassidim provided him with a shelter and meals, making him study Torah and Cabbala in exchange. This came of use to him later in his religious and artistic quest.

Upon returning to the US, Darren entered Harvard University and made his first short film, «Supermarket Sweep». Then he moved to LA to be closer to the movie world, and entered the Center for Advanced Film Studies at the American Film Institute.

Once ? sold for a $ million, Dimension Studio, commercial part of Miramax, signed Darren up on very good conditions to make the sci-fi movie Proteus, but instead he starts the gloomy picture Requiem for a Dream based on the Hubert Selby Jr. novel of the same name. As well as ? it was made with the same unique visual style, but the characters were shown in a deeper way. It premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and was greeted by a 13 minute standing ovation.

After the Requiem, he was invited to enliven the long-forgotten Batman. However, it was Chris Nolan to make “Batman: The Beginning”. And Aronofsky, after a series of destiny and career swings, introduced the Fountain, a blend of American commercial movie-making and author’s take.

When you speak to Darren you are startled by the fact that unlike the deep and dark world of his movies he is personally a nice, lively, very sociable and bright person with versatile interests that include Russia because of his family’s roots.

“I feel very sure and I hope I reflect this in my movies, that we are here on the Earth for some reason that we cannot comprehend. But for as long as we are here we have this promise of something great we are to make. I imagine life not as some order but rather a chaotic pile. But it is worth living to find some sense in it, some idea”.

“The Fountain started from the intriguing idea of the “fountain of youth”. I started to work on this idea when I was 30. This is the age when you first start thinking of figures in life, in regard to yourself. Before, it seemingly had no relation to you. And when you are 30, you understand that one day you are going to be 50, then 75 and so on. While working on the script, I turned to the Biblical Eden, the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Life, and gradually I came to understand that our mortality is a part of our human nature. The fact that we die, is a part of our spiritual path. This is how the idea of the film about the Tree of Life, the source of eternal youth and so on, whatever you read in the movie, crystallized”.

“We developed the ideas of the Fountain together with my long-time friend Ari Handel. He had been writing his doctor’s thesis on neurophysiology. He had been experimenting on apes but gave it up for ethical reasons. We saw the Matrix and decided to make a sci-fi movie with nearly no computer effects. We would take long walks in Brooklyn, we spoke and spoke and came to the idea that we are to make a picture running in several time periods, which flow from one to the other or stream one from the other, just as the Russian matryoshka dolls. This is how the palindrome structure originated. In 1500, the Queen Ysabella of Spain sends Thomas the conquistador to the Mayan Empire to find the Tree of Life, the fountain of eternal youth. In 2000, the neurophysiologist Tommy seeks the medicine to cure his wife Izzy (Ysabella) using essences from Guatemala, where Mayan Empire had been”.

“This was more complex than the final result in the movie. I had always been thinking about it as a poem. This is why it is so visual. But I never forget its philosophical side. I ask the biggest questions there. What is reality? What is existence? What is consciousness? As you understand, there are no readymade answers”.

“Our fiction is not in dispatching people to the outer space, but in plunging them into their own inner space. The sci-fi as a genre, is now stolen by all of these “Tran-planetary cargos”, ray guns, and laser sabers. But in the literature, there is a long tradition of the science fiction directed inwards, to the depths of human soul”.

You can watch the Fountain in Russians cinemas starting on March 1st, 2007


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