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Bodies in Pain: Emotion and the Cinema of Darren Aronofsky

Tarja Laine
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 194
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  • Book Info
    Bodies in Pain
    Book Description:

    The films of Darren Aronofsky invite emotional engagement by means of affective resonance between the film and the spectator's lived body. Aronofsky's films, which include a rich range of production fromRequiem for a DreamtoBlack Swan,are often considered "cerebral" because they explore topics like mathematics, madness, hallucinations, obsessions, social anxiety, addiction, psychosis, schizophrenia, and neuroscience. Yet this interest in intelligence and mental processes is deeply embedded in the operations of the body, shared with the spectator by means of a distinctively corporeal audiovisual style.Bodies in Painlooks at how Aronofsky's films engage the spectator in an affective form of viewing that involves all the senses, ultimately engendering a process of (self) reflection through their emotional dynamics.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-576-9
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION. Aronofsky, Auteurship, Aesthetics
    (pp. 1-23)

    After the twentieth century’s predominantly ocular-centric understanding of cinema, ‘cinema of the senses’ and ‘cinema of the body’ have become new catchphrases in film studies over the last two decades. In what could be called a carnal understanding of cinema, emphasis is placed on the lived experience and sensation, while vision and cognition are often understood in terms of affect and embodiment. Tim Palmer defines this type of film as the ‘cinema of brutal intimacy’, characterized by ‘bold stylistic experimentation’ and ‘a fundamental lack of compromise in its engagement with the viewer’, demanding ‘a viscerally engaged experiential participant’ (Palmer 2006:...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Noise: Pi
    (pp. 24-44)

    Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film,Pi(1998), is a character-centred story that does not actually invite identification with or inspire empathy for its troubled main character. Instead, it is the aesthetics of noise in this film that binds the spectator to the life-space of mathematician Maximillian Cohen (Sean Gullette). Although the film communicates the experience of its protagonist, it is primarily the film’s noisy, visceral quality that is responsible for its powerful impact. Pi is best described as a psychological thriller, in which the character’s subjective state is central, a process Aronofsky refers to as ‘subjective filmmaking’. But Max’s psychological...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Rhythm: Requiem for a Dream
    (pp. 45-73)

    Requiem for a Dream, the hyperkinetic second feature film by Aronofsky, is based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s 1978 novel of the same title. It follows the spiralling plunge into desperation of its four main characters, whose lives closely intertwine through varying phases of drug addiction. This emotionally exhausting descent is presented to the spectator from within by means of the film’s affective-aesthetic system, which is best characterized as overwhelming in a particularly negative way. The film begins in summer, with its hopeful protagonists starting out chasing their dreams, a quest in which drugs – amphetamines and heroin – play a central role....

  8. CHAPTER THREE Grief: The Fountain
    (pp. 74-99)

    The visually and symbolically rich third feature-length film by Aronofsky,The Fountain, contains three intertwined storylines with different sets of characters all played by the same two actors, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. The characters are Tommy, a modern-day neuroscientist, and his wife Izzi, who is fighting brain cancer; Tomás, a Spanish conquistador, and his queen, Isabel; and Tom, a space traveller who has hallucinations of his lost love Izzi/Isabel. The narrative tension both within and among these storylines is based on thematic juxtapositions, such as mind and body, science and spirituality, and finitude and infinitude. In addition, just like...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Masochism: The Wrestler
    (pp. 100-126)

    InThe Wrestler, Mickey Rourke plays Randy ‘Ram’’ Robinson, a wrecked star of the eighties’ professional wrestling scene, who, twenty years later, is still performing for a handful of nerdy wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centres around the state of New Jersey. After a horrendous wrestling match that involves staple guns, barbed wire and broken glass, Randy suffers a severe heart attack and is ordered to quit wrestling by his doctor. Outside the wrestling world, Randy’s only ‘real’ human relationship is with the aging stripper Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). She advises Randy to re-establish contact with his estranged...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Uncanny Sublime: Black Swan
    (pp. 127-157)

    The above quotation from Hugo Münsterberg accurately describes the emotional impact of Aronofsky’s fifth feature-length film,Black Swan. Its story revolves around a young ballerina, Nina Sayers, who dances as a soloist in a prestigious New York City ballet company. Nina is simultaneously portrayed as innocent and devoted, vulnerable and controlled. This ambiguity in her personality is reflected by the challenge she is faced with, namely to perform the emotionally and physically demanding double role of Odette and Odile in the legendary Tchaikovsky balletSwan Lake. In order to rise to the occasion, Nina must plunge deep into her uncontrolled...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 158-162)

    Throughout this book I have attempted to show how the relationship between cinema and spectator is to be considered an active process, in which emotion may facilitate philosophical reflection. My emoting with the films by Aronofsky has brought me to the conclusion that the author is still a relevant concept in the study of the affective-aesthetic functioning of cinema, because it invites one to imagine the film-spectator relationship as a co-creative process. In their engagement with cinema, spectators often seem to use their intuitive understanding of the process of filmmaking. In their textbook on film analysis, Maria Pramaggiore and Tom...

  12. Appendix. Darren Aronofsky Filmography
    (pp. 163-168)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-180)
  14. Index
    (pp. 181-184)