In an academic video essay on the sound design of Pi (1998) and Black Swan (2010), Daniel Crowley analyses Daran Aronofsky’s usage of sound design which he uses to let us connect deeply with his characters’ moods and mindsets.

Some of the key takeaways:

  • “Through sounds that discomfort and disorient the viewer, Aronofsky makes his overall sound design serve as a representation of his characters’ fractions of subjectivities.”
  • “The sound design of each film becomes representative of the change occurring within each character’s mind.”
  • “Aronofsky instills an unsettling feeling of subjectivity; making you feel like you’re in the head of Max and Nina.”

Watch Daniel Crowley’s full video essay on Daran Aronofsky’s usage of sound design below:

Darren Aronofsky: The Sounds of Obsession – A Video Essay

In a recent interview, Darren Aronofsky spoke with Indiewire about his latest horror film mother! and mentioned a similar approach: “Where the film works is the audience doesn’t know where they are: They keep looking to Jen to see where they are, but Jen’s character doesn’t really know how to take certain things. She’s constantly flowing between different emotions, different thoughts. We wanted the audience to lean into that, to not give them any relief by allowing them to lean back on something that easily gives you emotion.”

Sound designer Craig Henighan added that “restraint was a really big thing with this movie. It has a lot of other layers to it and the idea was to use anything we could make sonically feel like it was part of the world. If we were going to do the horror sound, or horror beat, or the horror scare we tried really hard to make that sound be born of something that was happening on screen. (…) In ‘mother!’ the house is sort of alive on some level. The challenge is how do make it interesting and make it feel like the actual walls are breathing and talking without being corny or too pedestrian. We accomplished that by using a lot of creaks and sounds of pipes rattling and manipulating them in ways that eventually they would turn into baby cries, or morph into other things as we got deeper and deeper into the film. (…) [To give the house itself a heartbeat] we’d listen and try to mimic [a whale’s heart] with process sounds that we made up. We’d mimic the timing and pulsing, or beating [of the whale’s heart] and Darren really gravitated toward that. These biology-type sounds is a thread in a lot of his movies — humans, bodies, essentially life itself.”

Posted by Peter F. Ebbinghaus

Based in Berlin, Germany. Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief. Music Producer at Eon Sounds Productions. Founder of Composers for Relief. Keeps Moving.

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