A film director is someone who has to tap dance on a carefully constructed stage centered on their own creativity, audience expectations and commercial concerns. It’s a carefully choreographed ritual as strange and nuanced as a peacock mating dance. A director who skillfully shows his feathers can ride a wave of adulation that causes him to lose control of the mesmerizing performance. He can careen out of control like a creative Hindenburg flaming quickly to the ground. Everyone is at horrified and drawn to movies that are little else than creative tragedies. Films that are at the very least products of an introverted ego maniacs that some film makers have become.
Compiled below are some of the greatest examples of directors who tuned out the world and decided what was happening in depths of their Psyche had to put to film with presumably only themselves considered as an audience. So join me on a trip to marvel at directors who committed creative kamikaze missions with insane bounce off the rubber room results.
10. Darren Aronofsky – Requiem for a Dream
Many times films that spiral out of control are the direct result of overnight fame and success for a film maker. Such is the case of Requiem for a Dream. In 1998 Aronofsky released a small independent film PI which garnered heavy praise from critics. The film went on to earn several awards including the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival. PI was a densely layered psychological thriller populated by big philosophical ideas concerned ultimately with the very creation of life itself. It was however far from perfect but was definitely a minor league home run from a promising rookie. While I like PI I feel the movie received such high praise mostly because critics become bored watching the same tired plot formulas over and over again. PI provided them with a vehicle to excite rarely used neurons and remember why film was their drug of choice.
Speaking of highs imagine the effect this mountain of accolades had on Darren Aronofsky. Here he was the newly crowned king of the cinematic outsiders club and he had been given a platform to do anything he wanted for his next project. I’ll tell you what happened – he lost his collective creative mind and ego. The premise of Requiem for Dream is to follow the lives of several drug addicts and their nightmare fueled lives. But honestly it doesn’t really matter, the movie is really about Darren Aronofsky’s self-indulgence-fueled trip in a creative overdose of his own. After the first 20 minutes or so of the film I came to realize what I was watching. It was the excitement of a child given a film camera desperate to prove what a genius he was. The camera flies around constantly, there are quick zooms, intense close-ups and enough steadicam work to break the back of the most herculean camera person. I could almost hear Aronofsky’s voice, ”Look what I can do!! See I’m a big boy director!”
The film itself is based upon a book, but even considering this the ending is an overwrought piece of cheese. The last ten minutes of this film would make Sweeney Todd seem understated by comparison. It’s a cacophony of campy gore, overstated slow motion shots, an in-your-face porn circus and fast paced editing. At the end of the film I wanted to scream “enough already boy genius we get how special you are!” Of course since this film Aronofsky has improved his control of the art form and produced such films Black Swan which is a nuanced classic. It’s clear that Requiem was a teething ring for a promising director and I’m glad he was given the opportunity. It is clear however that Requiem was out of control.
This article was first posted on August 12, 2013