tenbears' blog

…it shall be life

The Wrestler

Many people have commented on the fact that Darren Aronofsky’s film The Wrestler (2008) looks almost like a documentary. This is certainly what the director wanted, saying that his intention was to go back to the basics after his three previous films. How did he achieve the desired effect? (You might disagree about the order of importance of the points below.)

First, he chose a director of photography who had many years of experience in both feature films and documentaries. She explains very clearly
here what he asked her to do and how she interpreted it. 16mm film, handheld camera, a small crew ready to adapt, location shooting with minimal lighting changes. The movie contains a number of handheld tracking shots of Randy ‘The Ram’ (Mickey Rourke) entering rooms which add to its documentary feel. This article provides a few more technical details.

It’s not storyboarded and the director encouraged improvisation. He obviously had to have actors who were comfortable with this. We could add here, or maybe in points above or below, that many of the ‘actors’ seen were in fact professional wrestlers doing their first piece of acting, and that the crowds were real wrestling crowds.

The story itself. There are almost no dramatic events, despite the subject. A lot of what happens or doesn’t happen here is obviously due to the writer of the screenplay. The observation near the beginning of this page about the ‘inciting incident’ is good on the difference between this film (for example) and Hollywood movies. It’s also a personal, character-driven story. The film doesn’t comment on the society which produces someone like Randy.

Considering that the film is not particularly well-known, there’s quite a lot of commentary out there about it. The director and his main actor discuss it in this video , and the director talks about it at the end of this talk with Danny Boyle. A champion wrestler has written about the authenticity of the wrestling scenes and the world depicted in the film.

March 15, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Mickey Rourke plays an old and famous wrestler, a real icon on the ring but also a very nice and sweet person in real life. The Wrestler is a touching and intelligent film on the reconversion of a wrestler at the end of his career. Mickey Rourke presents the backstage of a wrestler’s life, from the changing room to the ring and from the strip-tease club to his miserable trailer where he lives. He is confronted with different fights, his daughter, a woman and his passion that he choose to do until his end.

    Comment by AntoineKellermann | March 16, 2016 | Reply

  2. Randy is a lonely man with only one passion, wrestling. He used to be a famous one but now he gets older. He started to abandon his family before being disowned by her. He now wants to change but some troubles occur. This film shows the unknown universe of the wrestling and the deep America. Great performance from Mickey Rourke, this role seems to be perfect for him. Good and emotional film, definitively I recommend it!

    Comment by Nicolas MANCEL | March 17, 2016 | Reply

  3. In my opinion, even with all of its gritty and melancholy realism, the Wrestler feels a little too safe ; certainly you can find many wonderful things about this movie, although you have zero interest in wrestling.

    The story is a standard character-driven narrative which rarely moves away from the staples of what makes drama.
    It includes well-worn themes as : issues with family, work, and poverty. Coping with the present and letting go of the past, and coming to terms with mortality and the fragility of life ; nothing that hasn’t been done before but it is still working here.
    Once again, I think that the movie is just too slow-paced to be really top-quality entertainment, and too basic to be top-quality art.
    However, an amazing performance from Mickey Rourke ensures it isn’t associate to a stinker.

    Worth a watch, indeed wrestling is only an aspect to the film, it’s about much more than that, but don’t expect layers of complexity, the film is as superficial as it is sincere.

    Comment by Hakim DERKAOUI | March 19, 2016 | Reply

  4. The story of this movie is itself pretty uncommon and singular at first sight and we don’t know really how the scenario will evolve. Indeed the first part of the movie got some rythm by showing the main character in his different fights and presenting his original way of life all along each step of his days.
    In addition, this old wrestler must face a new fight with his health and decide to “restart” his life. From this point, the movie losts its rythm and each scene starts to seem very long according to me. We enter more in a drama with a very few number of places (supermarket, daughter’s house, the night club…)
    Then the film becomes a very “predictable” and a bit frustrating.
    However the concept of showing someone out of his usual life like when Rourke must work as a butcher. He is kinda lost at the beginning and can’t really imagine to keep this work for life. I must admit that it was very well played by Mickey Rourke as well as for the fight scenes.

    Comment by Alexandre Wallet | March 23, 2016 | Reply

  5. The Wrestler is a really interesting footage about a man getting old and trying to get his life together. Besides the unusual profession of the main character, I think his history depicts the history of many people who struggle with their family, their love life, their job, etc, with a lot of realism. In addition to that, the character is very touching which adds to the “documentary” aspect of the movie.

    Comment by Paolo Munier | March 29, 2016 | Reply

  6. This film is heartbreaking and beautiful. I liked the approach phases of hope and despair, it was sincere. The characters are believable.
    The fact to observe the life of a wrestler who self-destructs, with Mickey Rourke in the main role, is very interesting when you know the life of Mickey Rourke
    This role is almost autobiographical.

    Comment by aminenajar | March 29, 2016 | Reply

  7. The wrestler is a movie as powerful as sad. It tells the story of almost retired athlete who gave up all he had for it’s carrier. Now he struggles keeping his life together while trying to wrestle again which will endanger his health.
    This movie is long and shows the everyday life of the wrestler and all its little problems.
    At the end, we’re really eager then frustated to know the outcome.

    Comment by Tran Eric | March 30, 2016 | Reply

  8. In my opinion, The Wrestler is a good movie. The story is not very original, but the way Aronofsky directed it and the performances of the actors (Rourke is absolutely brilliant) makes it a movie worth watching . Rourke plays a wrestler that gave everything to his career realizes – when comes the end of it – he screwed up everything else for a taste of the stardom and fame. He barely knows his daughter that hates him, he is poor and can hardly by his rent, he is alone and have no real relationships whatsoever (except for the one he has with a stripper, which at the beginning can not be considered a real relationships, even though something will happen between them) and most important he is on the verge of death because of his wrestling career. And because of that declining health he is going to try to make up for all of his mistakes (and let’s be honest, there is o lot of it). In most movies the guy would end up alive with his daughter and his new girlfriend. But not here. Because a screw up is a screw up. So obviously, even though he is doing is best (and at first it works quite well for him) in the end everything falls apart. And that is when Randy decides to get back on stage. It might (did?) kill him. But he does not care because the only thing that always loved him was the public. And Randy loved the public too. His fans were pretty much his life. At the end of the movie we could ask ourselves whether he is dead or not. But I think it is not the point. The point is that he was ready to die for the only thing he knew how to do well and for the love of the public.
    Rourke’s performance is astonishing of truth. When you know the story of Rourke you know how much he could relate to Randy. It was a brilliant choice from Aronofsky to cast Rourke for the part of Randy.

    Comment by Mathieu DE VITI | April 6, 2016 | Reply

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