Often with large brushstrokes of religious undertones, the filmography of Darren Aronofsky seems surprisingly thin considering his time in the industry. From his debut feature film Pi in 1998 to his most recent metaphorical pillage of plant earth in 2017’s Mother!, he is a director transfixed with stories of personal obsession and epic grandeur. Though, where the spectacle of his central stories usually hogs the limelight, he can often go without praise for his attention to the most minute of details.
In the depiction of addiction and obsession, immersion is everything. It is essential that we are placed in a position of empathy with Pi’s Maximillian Cohen, consumed by mental illness. Inhabit the obsessive, unstable mind of Sara Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream. Understand the fear and confusion of Jennifer Lawrence in Mother! In Aronofsky’s fixation with individual obsession, these elements are crucial.
To achieve this, the filmmaker toys with immersive sound design, crafted to place the audience within a tangible new reality. Maximillian’s mental breakdown in the subway station becomes a shared experience, accompanied by pings of high-pitched white noise, replicating the firing and imploding of neurons and receptors. It’s a disturbing, uncomfortable experience that immerses us right in the mind’s eye of the character.
This most notably occurs throughout Requiem for a Dream, the whizz and vigour of the quick, successive cuts, replicating each snappy shot of serotonin. From the plastic rattle of pills in the pot to the gentle swimming of fluid down the throat, every stage of the process is recorded and noted as satisfying routine. It’s gripping, intoxicating immersion.
For this sharp, fleeting experience into the subjectivity of Aronofsky’s ‘other’, look no further than ‘kogonada’s’ edit of the sounds of the director himself. Creating an ASMR of gulps, whispers and flutters, this short video illustrates perfectly the immersion of Aronofsky’s subjective worlds.
Take a look for yourself: