The Argument of Film vs. Digital Continues, as Two Respected Filmmakers Battle It Out

By Will Ashton

Edit: I misspelled Darren Aronofsky’s name a couple times in the previous post. Those errors have since been fixed.

With each passing day, it seems that someone or another is getting up in arms either defending film or defending digital. It’s no different now, as two acclaimed directors, Darren Aronofsky and Nicolas Winding Refn, have a firm stand on both sides of the argument.

Exploring Aronofsky side first, while promoting the DVD/Blu-Ray release of his latest film Noah, the Black Swan filmmaker was more than willing to express his love of film and disinterest in shooting on digital. Leading up to his 2014 honorary Maverick Award at the Woodstock Film Festival, Aronofsky told Indiewire digital is not a suitable replacement for film stock, as video loses the adrenaline and excitement of waiting for film stock to process and experiencing filmmaking through an eyepiece.

“Film is amazing,” he explained. “The alchemy is so amazing when you shoot something and you don’t know what you have until 24 hours later or sometimes if you’re shooting in a really weird location, sometimes much longer. There’s something almost like gambling. There’s this adrenaline where you’re waiting for the magic of the chemicals to unleash the image. With video, that type of magic is gone and it’s the instant gratification thing where you’re almost looking at your finished image in front of you. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia. I think something happens in the chemistry that is part of the process.”

Aronofsky has shot all of his movies, from his debut, Pi, to Noah, on film, and upon shooting a short project on video, he sees no reason why he should stop doing it. Aronofsky would go on to say that “film is a great art form and if it dies, something is going to be lost.”

On the other side of the spectrum, however, is Refn. While Refn considers himself an enthusiast of film, when speaking to Deadline, he stated that “digital is so much better.”  “I shoot on digital, always,” he continued to note. “Drive, Only God Forgives…Bronson was the last film I shot on film, on super 16mm.”

Going against what Aronofsky stated, he believes that digital is “not a substitute, it’s just another canvas —and a canvas that has allowed more creativity than anything else in the world….Don’t fight it, embrace it.”

Who is right in this argument? Clearly there is no winner and losers at this point. There are going to be filmmakers now championing digital, like David Fincher, and others who continue supporting filming, like Christopher Nolan. The latter pushing his beliefs in a big way as seen with his efforts with his new upcoming film Interstellar. The big question is now what will become of filming movies in the future?


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