Film: Requiem for a Dream

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Film:

Requiem for a Dream

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Honors:
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Distributor: Live / Artisan

Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault, Requiem for a Dream is about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby and director Darren Aronofsky, this is undoubtedly one of the most effective films ever made about the experience of drug addiction (both euphoric and nightmarish), and few would deny that Aronofsky, in following his breakthrough film Pi, has pushed the medium to a disturbing extreme, thrusting conventional narrative into a panic…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault, Requiem for a Dream is about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby and director Darren Aronofsky, this is undoubtedly one of the most effective films ever made about the experience of drug addiction (both euphoric and nightmarish), and few would deny that Aronofsky, in following his breakthrough film Pi, has pushed the medium to a disturbing extreme, thrusting conventional narrative into a panic zone of traumatized psyches and bodies pushed to the furthest boundaries of chemical tolerance. It’s too easy to call this a cautionary tale; it’s a guided tour through hell, with Aronofsky as our bold and ruthless host.

The film focuses on a quartet of doomed souls, but it’s Ellen Burstyn—in a raw and bravely triumphant performance—who most desperately embodies the downward spiral of drug abuse. As lonely widow Sara Goldfarb, she invests all of her dreams in an absurd self-help TV game show, jolting her bloodstream with diet pills and coffee while her son Harry (Jared Leto) shoots heroin with his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and slumming girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). They’re careening toward madness at varying speeds, and Aronofsky tracks this gloomy process by endlessly repeating the imagery of their deadly routines. Tormented by her dietary regime, Sara even imagines a carnivorous refrigerator in one of the film’s most memorable scenes. And yet…does any of this have a point? Is Aronofsky telling us anything that any sane person doesn’t already know? Requiem for a Dream is a noteworthy film, but watching it twice would qualify as masochistic behavior. —Jeff Shannon

Fantasy mixes with the harsh reality of addiction and the desire for hope in Requiem for a Dream. Beginning at the dawn of a new summer in Coney Island, the film charts the relationship of Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) and her son Harry (Jared Leto)—two characters who are lost with in a world of the self-absorbed desire to feed their addictions at the cost of hope and love. With a sublime score (performed by the Kronos Quartet) accompanying some intense visual imagery, the film sets up an almost fairy-tale wash over the characters’ lives, with every hit of their chosen drug turning them into beautiful people surrounded by a haze which enhances all their features. However, unlike films such as Trainspotting which turn the dream into a nightmare then end with a huge dose of hope, Requiem for a Dream forces the viewer through all loss of hope and the descending madness of reality, as winter begins.

Darren Aronofsky’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Pi is a movie which exposes not only the terror caused by addiction of any kind—be it TV or Heroin—but also offers a powerful insight into the destruction caused by the desire to achieve “the American Dream”. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr, the film sacrifices dialogue in favour of imagery and movement: the editing and cinematography are reminiscent of MTV, however the movie takes this very aggressive style and moulds it to its own needs, adding a beautifully haunting narrative and powerful performances by its four main characters (Burstyn just missing out on an Oscar for Best female lead to Julia Roberts). Ultimately the viewer is left with a sense of desperation and despair: Requiem for a Dream exposes drugs and addiction in the most powerful and truthful way a film has ever managed, leaving no stone unturned. —Nikki Disney

Barnes and Noble

Drug addiction is the catalyst for some mind-altering cinematic pyrotechnics in 2000’s Requiem for a Dream, a cautionary tale from director Darren Aronofsky. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., Requiem follows a young ne’er-do-well (Jared Leto), his upscale girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly), and his widowed mother (Ellen Burstyn) as they all learn the hard way about the dangers of substance abuse. There’s a glimpse or two of the drug culture in Requiem, but for the most part the film probes internal landscapes. Those who’ve seen Aronofsky’s debut film, Pi, will know that this is his strong suit, and he uses a textbook-filling array of cinematic devices to bring the addicts’ hallucinatory experiences to the screen. This all builds steadily into a relentless barrage of manic intercutting that leaves some viewers exhilarated, others unnerved. While Leto and Connelly do very well in projecting a romantic chemistry that’s smashed by the competing chemistry of addiction, Burstyn’s Oscar-nominated performance is simply startling. Her diet-pill-induced downward slide is nothing short of horrific, as she transforms from a meek, mild-mannered, slightly overweight infomercial addict into an emaciated, deranged speed freak. Requiem starts out dark and only gets darker; it’s not for the faint of heart. The Artisan DVD includes audio commentary by director Aronofsky, a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and interviews with Burstyn and Selby.


Gregory Baird

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