Darren Aronofsky has always felt a bit like America’s Lars von Trier — a brilliant misanthropic visionary, a storyteller whose wry approach often hits closer to home than we’d like. Aronofsky is more of a romantic than von Trier, but the emotional depths to which both men often insist on traveling feel kindred. And the results tend to share a gloom that distinguishes them from their peers. While Noah begins as an immense action epic, it ends in much more familiar territory for Aronofsky: Tense, probing character drama dealing with the lengths to which an obsessive person will go to do something they believe in.
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Preparing for a Darren Aronofsky feature is sort of like preparing for a break up or a funeral. That’s not to say that every last Aronofsky tale is a saga of desolation or exhausting melancholy, but when you look at the man’s filmography, one of the common elements is a darkness that permeates. The difference, though, between his earlier works (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) and his more recent (The Fountain, The Wrestler), is a respect for subtlety. In Requiem, Aronofsky thrust the grotesque into the faces of his audience with an almost mean-spirited bravado. It’s a film that, despite its high quality, is simply too awful for repeated viewings. Lately though, Aronofsky has coupled that signature bleakness with a real human beauty. He has found a balance in his method, and with his last three films, The Fountain, The Wrestler and now Black Swan, he has shown the kind of forward momentum that ensures real longevity.