Darren Aronofsky tackling a biblical epic?

Darren Aronofsky, director of Pi (1998; my review), Requiem for a Dream (2000; my review) and the upcoming The Fountain, tells CHUD.com that he wants to make a Bible epic next:

The new thing is even more exciting, and I’ll give you an exclusive. I’m not going to tell you exactly what it is, but…it’s a biblical epic.


(laughs) In English!

What led you to that?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Before Pi. Probably ten years ago, I had an idea. Actually, I wrote a poem about it when I was in 7th grade. I won this award for it — my first writing award. So it’s a story from the Bible that kind of stuck with me. About ten years ago I was at a museum that featured an exhibit that reminded me of it. So we’ve been trying to crack it for a while, and we finally figured out a direction. But…I can’t tell you any more.

I would be very interested in seeing Aronofsky tackle a Bible story — any Bible story. Then again, considering how long it took for The Fountain to get made, I won’t be holding my breath — not yet.

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  • The review I wrote of Requiem for a Dream for the Vancouver Courier in November 2000 is no longer online, so here it is:

    – – –

    Requiem for a Dream — 3.5 stars out of 4

    by Peter T. Chattaway

    Darren Aronofsky does not direct films, so much as he creates altered states of consciousness. Two years ago, he burst onto the scene with Pi, a cerebral, no-budget hit about a gifted but paranoid mathematician who discovers the interconnectedness of chaos theory, Jewish mysticism, the stock market, and everything. The film was shot in bargain-basement black-and-white and the acting occasionally left something to be desired, but in just about every other respect — from the throbbing techno score to the cryptic hallucination sequences — it was a strikingly original triumph of do-it-yourself cinema.

    In Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky applies the rapid-fire cuts and crazy camera angles of his earlier film to a project that has decent production values and an experienced cast, and the effect is mesmerizing when it isn’t profoundly disturbing. But the underlying story feels a bit too conventional this time. The film, adapted from the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., is a harrowing depiction of drug addiction told from the points of view of four people who pursue big dreams even as their lives turn into the most horrifying of nightmares. It would probably be going too far to call the film anti-drug propaganda, but at times it does seem to be hammering away at some fairly obvious moral points.

    Take the way one character’s heroin addiction is linked to another character’s unhealthy obsession with television. Harry (a very skinny Jared Leto) is a junkie who has stolen and pawned his mother’s TV so often that she now chains it to her wall. This doesn’t stop Harry from taking it again, and when he does, Sara (Ellen Burstyn, in an exceptionally brave performance) goes and buys it back like she always does. Television is Sara’s drug, and when she hears that she may have a chance to appear on her favorite TV show, she goes on a crash diet and starts taking pills prescribed to her by an inattentive doctor.

    Harry, meanwhile, has just hooked up with a fellow addict named Marion (Jennifer Connelly). In one intriguing split-screen sequence, the two caress each other and share their hopes and secrets, their gentle strokes presented side-by-side on the screen. This device heightens the intimacy of the moment, yet it also hints at the forces that will separate them later on. When Harry’s plans to make money as a drug dealer with his partner Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) begin to fall apart, Harry persuades Marion to prostitute herself. It gets worse from there.

    Aronofsky is a master at compressing time and distorting reality in order to get us inside the minds of his characters. A drug party flashes by in mere seconds, and whenever someone needs a quick hit, Aronofsky employs a three-part montage in which we see heroin boiling in a spoon, microscopic blood cells, and a dilating pupil. The sound mix is similarly surreal — listen to the voices as Sara meets her doctor in a scene shot through an unforgiving fisheye lens — and that’s before you take the score into account, which combines Clint Mansell’s rumbling electronic rhythms with the arch strings of Kronos Quartet.

    The actors all went to amazing lengths to help Aronofsky achieve his vision, but none more so than the women. Marion ultimately takes part in a degrading sex show (the main reason the film was rated NC-17 in the States and is rated R in British Columbia), but it is Sara, terrified by her refrigerator and bombarded by phantom desserts, whose fate is the most haunting. At one point, as she wastes away in her living-room chair, she is taunted by an ideal version of herself that magically leaps off her TV screen. It speaks volumes for Burstyn’s performance that, when this attractive doppelganger appears, we take some comfort in the knowledge that the actress survived this ordeal.