With Darren Aronofsky’s latest film ‘Mother!’ making a distinctive impression this September, now would seem a suitable time to do a ranking of his filmography thus far. Aronofsky is one of my favourite film directors and most of the time, makes extremely thoughtful and original films. Even the weakest film on this list, I have respect for. So without further ado, here is how I would rank Aronofsky’s films.
The only film I don’t like by this filmmaker, ‘Pi’ is, in my opinion, a self-indulgent, loud and annoying slog with a pathetic main character. Perhaps I need to rewatch it a few more times but it’s just a film that I cannot get into. It’s not a ‘bad’ film by any means and it’s certainly very surreal in sections and I do have respect for its ambitions. It just doesn’t seem as magical or as enticing as his other works. That’s not a bad thing – I enjoy some of his other films that others have not so if there’s something here that people revel at, it clearly works on some levels. It’s certainly not a film a mainstream director would be allowed to make in this day and age!
Now for the excellent films…
I still haven’t really made up my mind on ‘mother!’ and I doubt I will until I have watched it a few more times. The first two acts are particularly grim and brooding and develop really neatly into what is a bonkers third act. I think I enjoy the film more for its conceptual nature rather than the actual film itself which I found a little hard to get into at times. That said, the film has made a very long lasting impression on me and I keep thinking about it. Aronofsky crafts some really strong and memorable images and I really enjoyed the characterisation. ‘mother!’ reinforces my love of film and is why I continue to be enamoured with the medium of film. It’s films like ‘mother!’ that challenge their audiences and aren’t just acceptable and dumb that really keep me driven. I’m not really sure (and it is surely deliberate by Aronofsky) what the film means but on first viewing, I found the film to be delirious, deeply allegorical, manic, paranoid and genuinely unnerving. ‘mother!’ is definitely a film that deserves and I appreciate exists. This film has the potential to crawl up the list as time passes but for now, I have to put it 6th. You can read my full review here.
5) The Fountain
‘The Fountain’ is a rather misunderstood film and received mixed reviews on its release. It is frequently enthralling and is a pure spectacle to behold on screen – it’s very impressive to see what one can do with a limited budget. This is in my opinion, Aronofsky’s first explicit exploration of religion and is perhaps one of the director’s most personal films. It features great performances across the board and features a magnificent score by Aronofsky-regular Clint Mansell and stunning cinematography by Matthew Libatique. So why it doesn’t it rank any higher? Its pacing feels rather disjointed and the film is a bit of a slog in parts and goes too quickly in others. A more ruthless editor who knew how to assemble the film in a better way, I’m sure would have put this up there with his best films.
There is now a big step-up in quality…
4) Black Swan
‘Black Swan’ is perhaps Aronofsky’s most mainstream offering and certainly elevated his oeuvre with a Best Director Oscar nomination. It is a dark, panic-inducing film that tackles a strangely hypnotic and hegemonically calm sport. Natalie Portman is electric as the titular character which she won an Oscar for and the cast is rounded out by Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder who all put in very convincing performances.
3) The Wrestler
‘The Wrestler’ is a subdued and melancholic investigation into its main character, played magnificently by Mickey Rourke in a comeback role. Rourke is outstanding as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson who is a calm yet determined character and Marisa Tomei co-stars here too in what is perhaps a career best performance for her. ‘The Wrestler’ builds up to an outstanding conclusion and features outstanding cinematgraphy by Maryse Alberti, a departure from Matthew Libatique and a subtle yet memorable Clint Mansell score.
‘Noah’, a passion project for Aronofsky is perhaps one of the most unconventional and controversial mainstream film of recent times. It delivers visually with some visceral action sequences and fantastical creatures yet is a strangely adult film for its 12 rating. It tackles some really controversial and hard to stomach themes and is in many ways, a morality tale. Russell Crowe is outstanding here as the titular character and across the board, the cast are brilliant with Emma Watson perhaps making the best impression as the barren Ila. ‘Noah’ really narked audiences off and religious devotees but this is a really special film that goes against the grain and really delivers. And again, Clint Mansell’s score and Matthew Libatique’s cinematgraphy once again elevate the film!
And the best Darren Aronofsky film is…
1) Requiem For A Dream
‘Requiem For A Dream’ is my pick for my favourite Darren Aronofsky film and is perhaps one of my favourite films since 2000 so far. It is a hallucinogenic, nerve-wracking, depressing experience that will put anyone off narcotics far more effectively than a school drugs talk. Aronofsky experiments with form and imagery and Matthew Libatique’s cinematography is especially kinetic and unnerving. Clint Mansell’s score is one of the most haunting of our times and has gone on to inspire many other films. It is a note perfect film and doesn’t degrade on each rewatch. It is a masterpiece.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister