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Director Darren Aronofsky discusses his latest film Black Swan with Film Independent.

 

For more than 15 years, director Darren Aronofsky mulled over an idea for a film set in the world of ballet.  But it turned out that Aronofsky's Black Swan benefited from the wait. Aronofsky sees the film, which stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, as a companion piece to his award winning 2008 film, The Wrestler.  Both films are set in highly competitive, brutalizing sports and both lead characters find themselves in an uncontrollable path to self destruction. Black Swan, set in New York City, stars Portman as a naïve but talented ballerina who begins to unravel when she is chosen for the plum role of the White and Black Swan in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. While she is adept at dancing the role of the innocent and fragile White Swan, she undergoes an intense and literal transformation when she taps into her psyche to play the dark and dangerous Black Swan.  Aronofsky says at one point in his career he was consumed by his work. But now with more films under his belt and a family life, he has become more pragmatic and sees a value in drawing a line between his work and his personal life.

Your sister was aballerina, what are your memories of her sacrifices growing up?

I didn't witness it that much. It was her world. I didn'tget exposed that much to it. I was doing my own thing playing little league.But I would see the posters in her room and hear about the recitals. But I didn'tget that interested in that world until recently.

This is a tale aboutart and the fine line walked between creation and destruction, elaborate onthat.

I think that is definitely a theme in the film. But thereare lots of themes in the film and people bring out what they want when theywatch it. We tried to bring out as much richness as we could in the story andto shine a light on the real world challenges that these characters faced. Youwould be surprised what people see when they watch this film.

Such as?

They are interested in the performances or the loss ofinnocence and the story of becoming a woman. Some are interested in the daughter/motherrelationship which tells me more about them than the film.

Your films have beenvery intense. Did you ever lose yourself in the making of them?

I used to get really deep into the film but now I really tryto see it as more of a job. Thinking of it in that way gives me moreperspective.

 

How so?

You need to be connected to what's real when you are afilmmaker. When you are watching performances you have to say ‘hmm are otherpeople in the world really going to understand what is going on?'

 

 

This is a companion pieceto The Wrestler.  Although the world of wrestling has theveneer of being a tough sport full of testosterone and violence and ballet as afeminine and fine, ballet seems the tougher one...what was your impression?

They are both pretty tough. They are tough in differentways. In one, the violence is hidden behind costumes and pointe toe shoes. In the other, the violence is brought out. Theyare both pretty brutal on the bodies. But I think wrestling is more brutal thanballet in the end.

 

 

This was your firstforay into a psychological thriller. How did you draw the line between that andthe drama of a girl losing her sense of self in a highly competitive situation?

I don't really make clear genre movies. I generally bendrules and mix tone and that is just because I don't have a taste for somethingstraight down the middle. I think Piwas a bit of a psychological thriller. I just want to make movies as originalas possible and give people an experience they can enjoy.

Have you been surprised by the positive reaction Black Swan has garnered already?

Well, it still has a long way to go. I am hoping it worksout.

 

The film critic ToddMcCarthy said Black Swan resembledthe 1948 classic, The Red Shoes, onacid...what do you think of that comparison?

I only became aware of TheRed Shoes recently because of Marty Scorsese's restoration. I was prettystunned with the similarities. Both films were full of research that was verygrounded in the ballet world. But being compared to a masterpiece like that ishumbling and overwhelming

How did Searchlightget involved?

They were interested for a while but they kept saying no. Theyeventually got involved two weeks before filming. They were waiting on the castand other things to come together. Look, they are the one shop in town thesedays so they have a lot of leverage, but we were really happy when they came onboard.

It doesn't sound likeyou had too many issues with casting or financing?

Casting was not that hard. People liked the material. But financingwas the hardest thing we have ever done. It was harder than The Wrestler. It was just the worse timefor independent film. People would read the scripts, say they liked the castbut asked if we could make it a romantic comedy. It was a big challenge.

Even with the success of The Wrestler, it was hard...

I thought it was going to be a lot easier. With Mickey Rourkepeople kept saying, ‘what are you doing?' But even with Natalie Portman, theywere saying, ‘what are  you doing?'

 

 

You were trying to raise money right in the middle of the financial meltdown. Is it any betternow?

I think it has softened a little bit but it is still really,really rough. I don't see it getting that much easier. We will have to see.

What is next for you?

I don't know yet. I'm looking at a lot of different things and we willsee what happens.  I'm reading abunch of stuff, trying  to get somerest and trying to get the film out. I'm trying to get everything in shape andtalk to people and spread the word that the film is coming out.

 

Hear more from Darren Aronofsky as well as cast members Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, and Barbara Hershey at the FIND Film Series screening of Black Swan on Monday, November 15.

 

Before joining Film Independent, Lorenza Muñoz was a staffwriter with the Los Angeles Times. For 14 years at the paper she covered news,politics, business, and entertainment. She recently completed her first novel, The Weight of Flight.

 By Lorenza Muñoz @ Film Independent

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