SXSW: Darren Aronofsky Calls Theatrical "The Ultimate Experience," Shares 'mother!' Inspiration

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Dareen Aronofsky

The director outlined his 10 Commandments of Indie Film during his SXSW Film Festival keynote.

Darren Aronofsky wants audiences to see his films in the theater. 

"I spend a lot of time making the theatrical experience the ultimate experience," the mother! director told a packed conference room of SXSW attendees in Austin on Saturday morning. "You see mother! on your iPhone, it's going to suck."

Aronofsky went on to explain that for mother! in particular, he was especially focused on the role of sound. "There's no score in that movie, it's all sound design," he said. "The sound is as important as the picture." 

If someone insists on seeing the film on a smaller screen, he suggested, "at least get a good pair of headphones." 

This was Aronofsky's first time attending SXSW, and he used his hourlong keynote to share what he called the "10 Commandments of Indie Filmmaking." It was a sly nod to the religious themes in many of his films — from The Fountain to Noah to mother! — though he acknowledged, "I'm a hack writer as compared to the guy who wrote the Bible." 

The commandments began with "Making Only the Film You Can Make" and ended with "Give a Shit," covering themes of persistence, family, working with actors and doing your homework in between. Along the way, he revealed insights into his directing process to the aspiring filmmaker crowd. 

While outlining commandment No. 4, "Do your homework," he discussed the secret, three-month rehearsal that he set up for mother! stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem at a warehouse in Brooklyn. "We taped out the entire house and we went page by page by page, line by line figuring out everything." Once they arrived on set, he shot an entire rehearsal of the film without costumes or other trappings and made the production crew watch it back so that they would get every scene and camera change streamlined. 

In discussing commandment No. 8, "Commit to the Vision," he acknowledged that he struggled during the making of Noah. "When the film started to test, it wasn't doing too well," he said. "Surprise, surprise, the evangelicals weren't going for it." But he said it was important for the final version of the film to be his. "Every film I've done at this point is my movie. Every last cut, I decided myself to do them. If anything, that's what I'm most proud of, that I haven't lost a film yet." 

During the Q&A portion of the talk, he also opened up about the inspiration for mother! "I wanted to make a film about Mother Earth and how we treat Mother Earth," he said, adding that he wanted audiences to have many reactions to the divisive film. "There was a lot of human emotion about marriages falling apart, relationships falling apart, the creative process," he continued, calling it the film "a lot of expression of what was happening to me in the moment."