On the surface, not much links director Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 pic “The Wrestler” with his latest effort, “Black Swan,” which concerns, among other things, the inner workings of a ballet company. The helmer, however, notes important connections.
“One is about the lowest art, the other about the highest, but both are about performance,” he says. “And it’s because of my connection to actors that I was attracted to both. These two movies are my love letters to actors.”
Indeed, the original script for “Black Swan” was set Off Broadway. “I’ve always approached things not necessarily straightforwardly,” Aronofsky says, “which often adds light to what you’re thinking about.”
The divide between what audiences see and what goes on behind the scenes is another link between the two films.
“When you’re in front of the curtain, it’s all beauty and light,” the helmer says of ballet. “Then you go backstage and you see the dancers are out of breath and sweaty — it’s anything but effortless. And you realize there’s all this competition. As a director, that got me really excited. ”
Critics have cited allusions in “Black Swan” to classic pics — everything from “All About Eve” and “The Red Shoes” to “Repulsion” and various Bergman movies.
“More than any other film I’ve done, this one has been compared to other people’s work,” Aronofsky says. “It’s the result of a lifetime of watching movies. But filmmakers are always looking at what others have done before. The biggest influence was Tchaikovsky ballet ‘Swan Lake.’ We tried to build the entire film from the fairy tale.”
In addition to the normal production challenges, Aronofsky also faced an unexpected hurdle: raising money to make this film.
“I thought it would be easier after ‘The Wrestler,’ because it did well when no one expected it to,” he says. “But it wasn’t. So there were incredible pressures on us beyond the shoot itself. It’s really good to have a box that a budget puts you in, but this box was a bit too small, and there was a lot of stress because of it.”