Between one strange rock and a hard place

Perhaps like all little boys, producer/director Darren Aronofsky recalls in his younger self a great passion for disassembling wrist watches. "Admiring all the different systems that make a thing work fills you with awe, it's just wondrous," the 49-year-old filmmaker says.

In a similar fashion, in One Strange Rock, his ambitious 10-part series about our home planet, Aronofsky says viewers are presented with a stream of information that eventually reveals "how these systems come together to create something".

A scene from One Strange Rock of a climber trekking across the glaciers of Svalbard.

"It's very easy to take things for granted and we really take things for granted," he says. "We really don't think about it, not just what our impact is, but what it takes to live the kind of lifestyles that we have and we live," he says. "Understanding the beauty of what is going on around us, I think, will hopefully inspire more people."

One Strange Rock begins with the simplest of statements: that there really is no place like home. Hosted by actor Will Smith, the series, which National Geographic describes as "an epic, cinematic event series that will redefine science and natural history filmmaking", embarks on a journey into our own planet.

A young child wearing traditional dress cradles a sloth in an Amazonian village hut.

Filmed in 45 countries, on six continents and – courtesy of a camera on the International Space Station – from outer space, Aronofsky says the series hopes to put science in the spotlight at a time when it is struggling to be heard.

"Science is cool, science is filled with awe, and science leads to understanding and compassion," Aronofsky says. "And that was a big part of our mission, to remind people [of] that right now. Science is under attack and it's actually responsible for everything here on this table and everything that's going on; our whole world is constructed by science that it's sort of unlocked."

Aronofsky, whose directing work includes the films Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan and Noah, and who produced the political biopic Jackie, might seem a somewhat unlikely natural historian.

But the Brooklyn-born filmmaker, who had in an earlier phase of his life trained as a field biologist, and partnered with Ari Handel, who has a PhD in science, to form the production company Protozoa, says a project like One Strange Rock was inevitable.

"I have been a fan of National Geographic since I was a teenager," Aronofsky says. "So we have always been interested in working with, and bringing, science in an entertaining way to the masses."

In developing the series, they began by trying to assemble something that was "not just a film about animals, cultures or science, but to blend them all together, all the different sciences, human sciences, earth sciences and try and tell a story with it, and to try to make that emotional.

"The breakthrough came when we stumbled on this idea of working with astronauts," Aronofsky adds. "It was a rabbit hole that was very fruitful. The more we went down it the more exciting it became, because we started to see this connection."

The astronaut's perspective of the earth – the one strange rock from which the show takes its title – became the touchstone for the series.

"They all had this different perspective on the planet that was a beautiful perspective, seeing our home from outside," he says. "It's very easy when you are inside the world to forget that there's just a slightly bigger picture."

That led Aronofsky to "the whole idea of the spaceship Earth, [that] there's a limited amount of resources, there's a limited amount of oxygen and we are all sharing everything. That is something I found very emotional and I thought could work as a big show."

The series explores some obvious questions: why does Earth support life as we know it? Are we alone? And where did we come from? It explores our planetary genesis, the cycle of life and death, human intelligence and alien life and the source of our success: oxygen, among other topics.

Each of the 10 episodes is presented by an astronaut, including former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield, astrophysicist Jeff Hoffman, Endeavour crew member Mae Jemison.

Aronofsky says the series hopes to take the audience beyond the suite of natural history programs that have explored both the earth and its place in the universe. "I don't think a show has really tried to combine all the different types of sciences that we are trying to pull together," he says.

"Planet Earth and Blue Planet are incredible, and then there's great stories on the history of science like Connections and Cosmos, they are incredible shows," he says. "But to try and do a portrait of a planet … I think the team pulled it off, this portrait of why we are all living in this one house together, and we see how this house and all the systems in it work together, to create shelter, so that we can live," he adds.

"I think that is a very touching thing because I think it's something we know deep inside us, we all know this idea of spaceship Earth, but we have no idea how these guys know it."

One Strange Rock airs from Wednesday April 25 at 7.30pm on National Geographic

Source: Read Full Article