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'There's too much pain in this world'
THERE are no happy endings in a Darren Aronofsky film, no comic relief, and very little romance. It's as if every one of those films was made under a dark cloud and the promise of tears. Turns out, it's not so much the dark cloud he's obsessed with - but the silver lining.
The 47-year-old filmmaker says: "In darkness, you see the light - it's just the flip side of a coin ... I feel that the art of tragedy has kind of died in storytelling in the US. But tragedy was once a great art form in ancient Greece. You can understand and study human behaviour through tragedy - perhaps more so than you can through a crowd-pleasing story and a happy ending."
Here recently for the Singapore International Film Festival, the 47-year-old filmmaker is famous for his cult films Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010), both of which deal with dark themes such as obsession, mental disturbance and death. His first film Pi (1998), a black-and-white no-star no-budget film, is harder to watch, dealing with esoteric subject matters such as mysticism, mathematics and the universe.
But with those few films, Aronofsky has garnered a die-hard fan base who would defend even his commercial flops such as The Fountain (2006) and Noah (2014) for their existentialist themes and unconventional storytelling style.
Aronofsky explains: "Even though my films deal with the tragic, I wouldn't say that my world view is entirely bleak. I consider myself as a realist who roots and hopes for the best. There's unfortunately way too much pain in this world. Not hiding from it but talking about it and examining it helps relieve some of that pain.
"If you paint everything as a classic hero's journey (as you might see in the average superhero film), then in some ways film becomes just a form of escapism. And I think we have enough of that."
Watching a tragic story allows you to witness the extremities of human experience. As he puts it succinctly: "When sh*t goes bad, people react."
His latest film is Jackie, which opens in the US on Friday, and stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of the assassination of her husband, US President John F Kennedy. Aronofsky is the producer, not the director - that job has been handed to the extraordinary Chilean director Pablo Larrain who, it must said, also has a similarly dark streak. Two of Larrain's films were shown at last year's Singapore International Festival of Arts.
"Jackie is possibly the greatest First Lady the US has ever had. And the film is an incredible portrait of probably the most difficult moment of anyone's life, how she had to pull it together in the days after her husband's death to create the legacy she created," Aronofsky explains.
"Reminds you of when there was class in the White House," he quips.
Portman, who also starred in Black Swan, has already drawn rave reviews for Jackie when the film debuted at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival in September.
Aronofsky notes: "Natalie is incredible, she's so real. I'm not saying anything about other actresses, but Natalie is a very mature woman, a real person with a real life. She is one person who really has her sh*t together.
"She's very cool, very straightforward, very honest, very simple - in a sense of there's not a lot of drama."
Meanwhile, the Internet is abuzz with speculation that Aronofsky and actress Jennifer Lawrence are romantically involved. The star of The Hunger Games trilogy had recently wrapped up the filming of Mother, a dark domestic drama Aronofsky wrote and directed which will open next year. The pair has been photographed on dates and kissing.
Like Lawrence, Aronofsky keeps mum over the nature of their relationship. But when asked what it is like to direct a lead actress he might be involved with, as he was with Rachel Weitz when he directed her in The Fountain, he replies: "When I'm directing, I become very objective. That's my job. I can't allow a friendship to disrupt that. Even if I'm angry with someone, I really try to look at the situation at hand and figure out honestly what it is in front of me and how can I make it the best thing it can be. I stay focused - that just happens."
- Jackie opens in the US on Friday