The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)

Credits run over a collection of newspaper clippings and ticket stubs of Randy the Ram’s (Mickey Rourke’s) wrestling games. Then there is a cut to Randy sitting on a chair with his back turned to us, in the corner of what seems to be a classroom in a kindergarten. ’20 YEARS LATER’ the text reads at the bottom of the frame. One wonders what this former celebrity of the wrestling world could be doing here. A man comes in, and gives Randy a small sum of dollars explaining how he expected the amount to be more. Randy shrugs without turning back and looking at him. The choice of the camera position is also significant here; we do not see the man’s head because it is situated at a toddler’s eye level. This is the viewpoint Aronofsky has chosen for us to look at this scene and it does not have the usual effect of magnifying Randy’s presence. On the contrary, Randy seems less like a strong wrestler and more like a child, fragile, abandoned and hurt, crying at the edge of the room without making eye contact with anyone.

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In the next shot, the hand held camera follows Randy from behind as he walks through the corridor into the gym where people are dismantling the stage on which supposedly he performed just a while ago. Two men approach to him asking for his autograph. They look at Randy in a rather strange way, as if perplexed by something on his face. Until this moment, we haven’t seen his face either and only get a glimpse of his profile after the two men leave. Gazing behind them for a moment, Randy turns to the other side, and walks towards the exit, dragging his carry-on luggage behind him. This is the point where the camera stops following him and we see his figure getting smaller and smaller.

Aronofsky continues to hide the mystery about Randy’s face and does not show it in daylight until a couple of minutes later. The audience is in the position of the two fans that approached him. We are tempted to look at Rourke’s face and observe it in detail because we wonder what happened to this once baby-faced star of the 1980s that we remember from Body Heat, 9 1/2 Weeks and  Angel Heart. The Wrestler‘s narrative has many similar elements with Mickey Rourke’s own life story and for this reason the film works in many different levels.

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