Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky I 2000 I USA
Requiem for a Dream is a film of unquestionable power, a one of a kind, challenging movie made by a genius director. When I saw it for the first time ever, it had such an immense impact on me that it nearly made me cry. I turned off the TV feeling rather shaken and surprisingly fascinated because of the honesty of the movie. It tells us: this is how some people live now.
The film, directed by Pi director Darren Aronofsky deals with the intertwined lives of four people living in Brooklyn on their quest for satisfaction in life. They are Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), a lonely, TV obsessed widow, and her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his drug dealer friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). After learning that she will make an appearance on a TV game show, Sara tries to lose weight so that she can fit into her prized red dress, and becomes hooked on diet pills. Meanwhile, Harry and his friends are taking heroin and cocaine.
We then witness the disastrous consequences and the downward spiral their lives take as a result of their addictions.
Requiem for a Dream is amazingly effective; not only does it portray drug addiction in a horrifyingly sincere way, but it also makes us reflect and think. The film is a sheer tour-de-force, a piece of filmmaking that is impossible to forget, a film that rapidly grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. As we're thrown into the lives of these four addicts we learn that they have been doing this for quite some time because the film doesnt really have a beginning; it's as though we had always been there. It is evident that Aronofsky's greatest weapon in his armoury is his highly innovative and unique visual style as he makes excellent use of extreme close-ups of dilating pupils, split-screen and sped-up footage. Sometimes he even straps cameras onto his actors to give a spectacular effect. The fast editing, which for some reason or other have caused some a problem, worked perfectly fine with me, giving us adrenaline-pumping images to convey the effects of drug addiction.
The acting is top-notch and very convincing but Ellen Burstyn is definitely the one who steals the show with her strong and amazingly honest performance. I was surprised to see Marlon Wayans in a non-comedy role, and even more surprised to discover that Burstyn did not win an Academy Award. Special mention must go to Clint Mansell's mournful, cold and beautiful score which gives the film a bigger and altogether more profound human side.
Aronofsky is a master of creating emotions so that we, the audience, are able to sense them. When someone's alone, we feel their loneliness, when someone's sad, we feel their sadness. Undoubtedly, the characters are all well-developed and gradually we begin to care for them, we begin to identify with them and share their feelings, which, in my opinion, is a very good thing because this is precisely what lacks in most modern films nowadays.
The film is certainly a very compelling piece of work; it's disturbing, terrifying and most important of all, honest. Very often and because of this, it is sometimes impossible to set your eyes on the screen or to look away at the same time. The film becomes so involving that when we contemplate the characters descent into hell at the harrowing ending we cannot help but inevitably feel both sadness and terror because of what they've become.
Overall, Requiem for a Dream is without a doubt a brilliant, hypnotic, bona fide masterpiece. Aronofsky has given us a well-acted, shocking, brutal and virtuous must-see film that both impresses and disturbs.
Requiem for a Dream is unlike anything I have ever seen before, a truly memorable film, a work of art that rightly deserves its position amongst one of the best films of the past 30 years.