In Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man without a Country (read this fucking book, by the way), he uses this chart to explain the subject matter of Kafka’s work:
The basic premise of this chart is as such: From the beginning to the end of the story, you have periods of good fortune and periods of ill fortune (as noted by the vertical column). However, as this graph accurately states, in a story by Franz Kafka, the protagonist starts out in a shit situation and it proceeds to get infinitely worse.
And the director who I think has carried this most brilliantly over into film with his first three movies is Darren Aronofsky. In Pi, you have a guy who’s crazy about the challenge of figuring out the patterns of our irrational lives, but his life is easily in the shitter and he’s tormented by genius. Eventually, he goes for gold: he drills a hole in his head as the only way he can see to alleviate his headaches.
In Requiem for a Dream, which actually may be his most hopeful of films because of the middle of the film that shows them actually being successful at the drug business and making plans to have a life in the future away from heroine. It centers around three drug addled friends who are so out of money and jobless that they attempt to sell heroine on the streets. Erstwhile, one the three’s mother, played brilliantly by Ellen Burstyn, finds out she’s going to be on her favorite television show. Because she wants to fit into her red dress again, she goes to the doctor who gives her diet pills. The irony of this is that the show is all about a diet program which you’d think that she would try. Instead, she descends into the uppers that make her feel young again but, in the end, have her diagnosed with a solid case of the crazies (which is a medical term).
And in his insofar Kafkan magnum opus, the Fountain, you have Hugh Jackman’s character who, even across one thousand years, never gets to be with his wife (played by Rachel Weisz) as she dies of cancer. In the present, Weisz has cancer and Jackman might have found a cure to aging which would have given her more time. In the past, the book that his wife is writing, he is a conquistador in Medieval Spain who goes into Central America at her request (she is the Queen) to find the tree of life that should stop the inquisition. If he succeeds, he would get to be her husband and King–her conquistador. But when he finds the tree, he gets greedy and drinks the sap and is immediately returned into the ground. And in the future, he is living with the tree, trying to reach the Mayan afterlife that she, in the present, talked so much about. He figures that, if he could just get across the universe, they could finally be together. But it doesn’t end up happening. The forever he wants is the forever he cannot have. It could be argued that he finally comes to terms with all of this at the end of the film when he realizes that he’s going to die, but, at the same time, it is not the forever he had wanted. He just wanted her. And, if you take the future as the final chapter of the book that Rachel Weisz’s character was writing, then it is not really and end, but the final chapter on his sorrow, and there will now only be loneliness and work in his future. So the future is nothing but a final chapter on a story that isn’t real. And what is real is the sorrow he is feeling.
All three of these movies end in a sort of devastation. Two of them ended with me weeping like a small child because of the sheer sadness of the film.
Now, in Vonnegut fashion, and to illustrate my point, I have made these charts via MS Paint:
(note: the three lines in the Fountain graphic correspond to the three storylines. The Top one being the future, the middle being the present, and the bottom one being the past.)
So there you have it. A shitty-ass graphical representation of Darren Kafkofsky.
And the best part is that he does it so deftly and so brilliantly that you can’t help but be in awe of these movies. His style and direction are both superb. The stories in each of these movies will blow you away.
And yet, it worries me that next year he will be releasing The Wrestler, a story about a retired wrestler preparing for one last bout with his archrival. If this movie ends well, it will destroy my Kafkan hypothesis but it won’t destroy me. If the movie itself sucks, it will destroy my soul.
I recommend that you go through youTube and watch some of the trailers or scenes from his movies. If you do, you’ll see some of the shattering jump cuts of Requiem and Pi that were used to both to disorient and to, in the former, get inside the head of a drug addict and, in the latter, to get inside the head of a paranoid schizophrenic. And you will see some of the most beautifully done shots across a thousand years that I have ever seen from the Fountain.
Easily, he is one of the best new talents in the industry today. And all I can hope for is more of the same from this young soon-to-be genius.
And you can bet your sweet black ass I’ll be there on opening day for the Wrestler. And then you’ll get to see the review.