Auteur Theory : Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)

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  • Topic: Film director, Satoshi Kon, Darren Aronofsky
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  • Published : April 2, 2012
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Auteur Theory:
Translated from the French, auteur simply means "author". There have been varied perceptions regarding this theory, its importance and effectiveness. Auteur theory is essentially “a method of evaluating films based on the director’s involvement and input”. The concept of ‘Auteur’ was first introduced by François Truffaut in 1954 in A Certain Tendency in French Cinema.(1) In this work he claimed that film is a great medium for expressing the personal ideas of the director. He suggested that this meant that the director should therefore be regarded as an auteur. According to him, there are three forms in which a director may be regarded as an Auteur. He agreed with André Basin’s idea that the film must be the direct expression of the director’s vision. The second aspect was that the director must be skilled with the camera. He believed the director is to camera as the writer is to pen. Lastly he believed for a director to be considered as an Auteur, he must leave behind a distinctive signature (based on Alexander Astruc’s idea), visually or as an idea in the film. (2) Years later, this concept was reintroduced by Andrew Sarris in 1962, in a publication titled “Notes on Auteur theory” (3). Accordingly, for a director to be considered as an auteur, the director must be well versed with the technical aspects of the film. The director must have a distinct style or a signature that distinguishes his films from the others. The movies must have a theme, an inner meaning. The auteur theory has been receiving widespread criticism since the 60’s. It was argued that one person cannot control all aspects of the film. A film is a conglomeration of the efforts of lots of people. Despite this it is found to be very useful as the starting point of interpretation of some films. Auteur Theory suggests that the best films will bear their maker’s ‘signature’, which may manifest itself as the stamp of his or her individual personality or perhaps even focus on recurring themes within the body of work. (4) Keeping the concepts of the theory in mind, one can safely conclude that if the three criteria have been satisfied, the director may be considered the auteur of the film, these criteria being recurrent style, theme and visuals.

Moving on to the discussion of the topic at hand, can the director of Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky be considered as an auteur? Black Swan is his fifth film as a director. All of his films share a similar theme. They all deal with an addiction in some form, the protagonist is always the one addicted. The movie shows the protagonist realizing his/her addiction, and there by degrading their personal life. ‘Black Swan’ and ‘The Wrestler’, share a single minded professionalism in the pursuit of a career, leading to the destruction of personal lives. (5) Aronofsky has had a lot of inspiration from different films, art forms and in general, all his films have an inherent trace of impending psychosis. However through the course of his five films one would see his stories delve more and more into the human psyche. With Requiem for a dream, it began as a drug addiction, a hallucination induced by drugs. In The Wrestler, he simply shows persistence, a plain disregard for anything but wrestling. Though this does not show psychosis, it clearly lights up the explosive nature of his pursuit. In some ways, this may be seen as a form of addiction too. In Black Swan, the main character is portrayed as one with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). As the movie progresses, the psychosis of the protagonist progresses further, she begins to hallucinate and she draws parallels between her life and the ballad she is performing (the swan lake ballad). As a director, there are a lot of similarities in his films. There is always a sense of accomplishment accompanied by sense of impending doom, a tragedy as the price for the success seen earlier. One of the characters (usually the protagonist) always dies or suffers some sort...
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