Taking a step back from perfection-obsessed ballerinas, unorthodox allegories about nature, and brutal boxing sequences, filmmaker, writer, and director Darren Aronofsky is pivoting his focus to the mystery of Earth in his new ten-episode series “One Strange Rock”. University students and community members were given a private screening of the series’ first episode, followed by a talkback with Aronofsky on Tuesday night in Richardson Auditorium.
“Everything — from women’s rights to poverty to health care — is all tied into the environment,” Aronofsky said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. "We’re at a critical moment in history,” he said.
“We’re witnessing something that’s extremely dangerous, and to sort of be quiet about it is a really hard thing for me to do,” Aronofsky explained.
Aronofsky’s style is seldom associated with being quiet about anything. His films, including “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), “Black Swan” (2010), and, most recently, “Mother!” (2017), are characterized by their ability to evoke visceral reactions from audiences through graphic depictions of human violence and evil.
But Aronofsky's approach is a bit different in his collaboration with National Geographic and British production company Nutopia. Instead of looking at the destruction of the environment and the deadly implications of climate change, “One Strange Rock” highlights the beauty and wonders of the natural world, hoping to remind viewers that our planet is worth protecting and preserving.
Differing from other series of this genre, like BBC One’s “Planet Earth,“ the stories in “One Strange Rock” are told through the lenses of astronauts who have witnessed Earth from a rather different vantage point than most citizens.
“We realized maybe it’s not about the people down here, but it’s those few people who actually left and looked down on us and saw it,” Aronofsky said.
“What’s interesting about ‘One Strange Rock’ is that it doesn’t talk about climate change at all ... There’s a good chance we don’t even mention it once,” Aronofsky noted.
“What it does that is so beautiful is that it shows how perfect the instrument to create life, how difficult, how odd, how miraculous it was that life actually happened on the planet, and by doing that, it just shows the beauty of our home," Aronofsky said.
Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox and chairman-CEO of Fox Networks Group, echoed Aronofsky's sentiment, and talked about how the film is both educational and aesthetically pleasing.
“I love this show so much because it entertains me and it educates me, and it sort of sneaks the education in,” Rice said with a laugh. “I’m sitting there and I’m watching and loving it and soaking it all in, and then I realize that I understand how oxygen is created on Earth now, and I didn’t know that in a way that I did 40 minutes ago.”
The talkback following the screening was moderated by David S. Wilcove, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs. After a brief discussion of his career, Aronofsky took questions from the audience.
“One Strange Rock” premieres Monday, March 26 at 10 p.m. on National Geographic.
The event, hosted by The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, took place on Monday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium.