Berlinale: Berlinale Topics


A Short Conversation with Darren Aronofsky

During the 65th Berlinale Darren Aronofsky was fully immersed in his duties as President of the International Jury. Before the festival he talked about his concerns over the state of the planet and about contemporary storytelling with Festival Director Dieter Kosslick.

DK: In the US, more and more stars are getting involved in environmental conservation. For example, you and Leonardo DiCaprio visited tar sand fields in Canada to gain a first-person impression of the environmental impact of drilling. Your film Noah could be interpreted as a vision for a different kind of relationship with nature, and you're developing the apocalyptic MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood into an HBO series. Is the camera your weapon in the fight to preserve the environment?

DA: I think the environment is the most important issue on the planet right now. When I was a kid there were still places you could go where nobody had ever been. Today there’s not a place that hasn’t been put on reality TV. Everything we do has an impact on the earth and that's a major issue for people too. When you’re telling stories I think it’s something we need to think about and talk about, but it’s important for everyone no matter what they do.

Television series are playing an ever-increasing role at the Berlinale as well. What aspects of the episodic format appeal to you?

It’s getting harder to make movies that aren’t sequels or superhero films. Dramatic content seems to have found a better home on television. I think that's because you can create complex characters that develop over a long period of time. It’s an exciting frontier for storytellers.

Your roots are in American independent cinema and your first films are nearly experimental, going beyond the conventional narrative. But even in your studio films you retain your very distinct style. How do you manage that?

I don’t think it’s actually a conscious decision. I think I just do what I do. I tell the stories I want to tell. I’ve been lucky to have many different people and studios support me in doing that, but for me, first and foremost, I focus on content I’m interested in and getting that into the world.

The characters you create are obsessive individuals -- they jump into the wrestling ring and are mauled, lose themselves in dance, dive into conspiracy theories, take drugs. Are you similarly obsessive about your work?

Not really.

Thanks to digital technology, today almost anyone can make use of a camera, and editing can be done on a smartphone. Filmmaking isn't just for a lucky few anymore. To paraphrase Andy Warhol: Anybody can be a filmmaker. What are the implications for cinema?

I think it’s exciting. I think it’s exciting that anyone can more easily get the tools to tell stories. I think storytelling is one of the original arts of humanity and everyone should have the technology to tell their own story. So the fact that now with a cell phone or with a video camera anyone can make a movie, I think it’s a very exciting time.

Your cameraman Matthew Libatique has already been to our festival and granted the Berlinale Talents participants insight into his craft. Now we know how the camera managed to dance a breathtaking pas de deux with Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Has he given you an idea of what to expect in the city and at the festival?

He loved Berlin and the festival and I’m hoping he’ll come visit and join us to watch some films.