Saturday, December 7, 2019

Movie Reviews: Requiem For A Dream

Requiem For A Dream
directed by Darren Aronofsky
Let's get two things straight right from the top. First, this is an older masterful film with an incredible soundtrack that both stands on its own and makes the accompanying scenes even more intense. The movie's split screens, speed, montages, and close ups all add up to create a hyper-reality that washes over the viewer.  I have to believe that Aronofsky was at least somewhat familiar with similar techniques displayed in Hype Williams' film, Belly.

Second, this is not a film that is made for people who can't abide depictions of emotional or occasionally physical brutality. This film is based on a Hubert Selby book after all. Like his work, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem For A Dream is concerned with mostly sad or disgusting people caught in a brutal spiral of bad decisions. In some respects, this is the most powerful anti-drug film ever created. 

The director however, has always insisted that this film investigates addiction and need in general, not just drugs. The viewer can decide, I think. I can't imagine anyone wanting to consume any mood or mind altering substances after watching this film. That's the film's first level. The film's second level may indeed be how the absence of love, not just in the erotic or romantic sense but the larger love of self, and true recognition or acceptance from others, can indeed invite in more dangerous forms of obsession. 

Aronofsky created this film in 2000. Selby wrote the book in 1978. But Aronofsky shoots the film in such a way that you might be hard pressed to tell which decade he's depicting. Some of the cars could be from the 60s while certain party scenes scream 80s. Still other scenes reference the 90s. Again, the film sucks you into its own world.


Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn-who was nominated for an Oscar for this role) is a middle-aged woman slowly sliding into old age. Sara is widowed. Sara doesn't do much besides talk to her friends and watch tv. Talking to her friends isn't much fun because Sara's at the age where most women are boasting about their sons' successes and/or their grandchildren. 

Sara can't boast about her son. Her son Harry (Jared Leto) is a heroin addict, along with his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and rich attractive girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). Harry isn't above stealing items from his mother's apartment. Sara enjoys watching infomercials and game shows. Sara's excited to learn that she will be invited to appear on a game show. 

Dreaming about the prize money and the adoration she'll receive from her friends and Harry, among others, Sara decides that she wants to fit into a red dress she hasn't worn in years. Sara makes severe diet changes to fit into that dress. When dietary restrictions don't give quick results, Sara takes more drastic steps.

Harry wants to help his mother but can't do much because of his own dependencies. When Marion's rich parents cut off her allowance, Harry and Tyrone decide to become drug dealers. They'll have drugs to use and money to share with Marion to fund her planned clothing store. Tyrone wants to live up to the expectations and hopes of his late mother. He thinks that just being financially successful is what his Mom wanted for him.

It's no spoiler to say that events conspire against the four leads in some truly horrific ways. Requiem For A Dream went way over the top but I would argue that at least some people still get hope. There are some iconic disturbing scenes of which you may be aware even if you've not seen the movie. Keith David, Ajay Naidu, Sean Gullette, and Christopher McDonald all have small roles. The author, Hubert Selby, also had a cameo. Intense stuff, folks.
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