American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, best known for his films such as Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler and Black Swan, loves to travel when he is not obsessing about cinema and India is a country that he has often crisscrossed through.
The celebrated director, who held a masterclass at the ongoing MAMI Mumbai Film Festival last evening, enjoys the anonymity that the country offers to him as a backpacker.
“I come with one backpack… wander around the city, enjoying the anonymity in the crowded streets… Every corner, you go around, is surprising. I try to get back here whenever I can as it is fun to be here and explore things,” Aronofsky said at the session.
When not going about his normal life, that includes raising his son with former partner Rachel Weisz, the director spends his time making films on the ideas that surprise him.
“In today’s world, it’s very hard to keep people’s attention. It’s about creating ideas, images, and emotions that are really exciting and different… These ideas came out of the stories I was trying to tell.
“You’re thinking, ‘what are they (audiences) thinking and what can I show them that’s going to surprise, wow, and maybe scare them?’ But (I) never go so far that I’m going to lose them. It’s always about how far to push it.”
The director, known for his surreal and grand themes in films, admits that the job can become obsessive.
“I do get obsessive about working, but I chose this job where I have to work once every two years. Most of the time is spent on doing research and thinking about what’s next and living a very normal life, where I get to travel and raise my son. (But) When I get on the set, it becomes a tremendous obsession.”
Aronofsky, whose last film was Jennifer Lawrence-starrer Mother! admires that films give one a chance to merge different ideas and create something beautiful. When asked what he likes most about filmmaking, he said, “Writing… The discovery that merges… On set, you prepare for a shot and everyone works to create that one shot. In the editing room, one shot makes you laugh. There is a lot of pain, struggle if things will work out or not. They are light moments..”
But at the end, once the film is finished, he said it feels like one has completed a marathon but after a break, there is a desire to get back on the set again.
Aronofsky said the key to pulling off complex moments in films lies in a director’s ability to find the right talent and the trust they form during the making.
“As a filmmaker, I feel a lot of pain, I feel uncomfortable with their discomfort. I feel like a parent as I don’t want them to feel that way… I understand the discomfort. I am friends with actors and we push each other to do the best we can do. Communication and trust between a director and an actor are important. It is very much about spending time with actors, trying to figure out what they are going to need to feel safe.
“What you try to do is create an environment where they can take risks. Your job as a director is to make them open up as much as possible and to not hold anything back… sometimes little tricks can help, but you only want to trick actors if they want to be open and want to be tricked,” he said.