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REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, 2000
Starring: Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connolly, Ellen Burstyn, Christopher McDonald
Drugs. They consume mind, body and soul. Once you're hooked, you're hooked. Four lives. Four addicts. Four failures. Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their addictions. Watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in. It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike.
Requiem for a Dream is an audacious story of obsession and self-destruction. Aronofsky’s development of the characters begins with a seemingly simple view of the average day-to-day life, which descends into the darker creations of our minds as the characters slip into a deeper state of isolation and depression.
The film focuses on four people; Harry Goldfarb, Sara Goldfarb, Tyrone Love and Marion Silver. Harry and Tyrone are best friends; Harry and Marion are partners and Sara is Harry’s mother.
Harry, played by Jared Leto (My So Called Life and Fight Club), is a graduate living with his partner Marion, portrayed by Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth and A Beautiful Mind). Marion is a budding fashion designer and Harry wants to do all he can to help her achieve her dream. Along with best friend Tyrone, played by Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie 1 and 2 and White Chicks), Harry and Ty get into the drug trade to help start off supporting themselves.
Sara is the widowed mother of Harry. Very much a woman who likes to coddle her son and wants to see him become successful and a family man, she fills her days with watching TV and waiting for her son to come and visit. When she gets a phone call from a TV production company who tell her she has the chance of being on national TV, she decides to lose weight and slim up by going to the doctor’s and taking some ‘special’ pills.
Tyrone’s dream is simple; he wants to make his deceased mother proud of him by making something of himself. His way to go about that is to join Harry in the drug trade and build up a sizeable amount of cash to give himself a boost. During the fall season, Ty gets caught up in the middle of a drug gang assassination attempt, which sees the trade dwindle and throw the three friends into a heightened state of deprivation.
The name ‘Jared Leto’ sets thousands of teenage girls squealing and crying; he’s mostly associated with his band 30 Seconds to Mars. For those of us who knew there was career for him before 30STM, we know him from My So Called Life and this movie, Requiem for a Dream. As talented as he may be, the real talent in this movie is that of Ellen Burstyn.
Her innocence at the usage of drugs allows her to feel the effects of the drugs even more, and is heavily emphasised by her body language and extent of her hallucinations. She’s unaware that she is taking drugs, and so believes what is happening to be a normal effect. She becomes bent on losing weight and becoming slim to fit into a precious red dress she wants to wear on TV. It’s only when Harry come to visit and he realises she is taking drugs does it slowly seem to seep into her knowledge that something doesn’t seem right. As the days progress, Sara’s addiction loses control and she is taking more pills than she should. Frequent hallucinations become second nature; her fridge roars and shakes, whilst she sees herself on TV as a contestant.
As fall turns to winter, Harry, Ty and Marion find themselves in severe deprivation from drugs. When Marion turns to prostituting herself for drug money, including attending orgies, the rift between Harry and herself deepens and ends in various arguments. Harry’s arm becomes infected, and soon ends with the eventual amputation of his entire arm. Ty ends up in prison, subjected to racism hard labour and drug withdrawal. Sara’s sanity falls to nothing as she visits the TV studio; she ends up being taken into a mental institute and is put under painful electroconvulsive therapy.
The film ends with all four characters slipping into the foetal position, lost in the misery of their lives and where their addiction has got them.
The film is a stark sense of how drugs can take you up a highly destructive path. We can see that the progression and intensity of their individual addictions take them to new heights. The development of the characters is intense and well-thought out.
But character development isn’t the only thing that makes this film a winner. Aronofsky uses quick montage cuts, which is referred to as being ‘hip hop cuts’. At the beginning of the film, the cuts are long and extensive, emphasising the slow progression of what is happening and introducing us to the concept. Later on, the cuts are rapid and short; by this point, we are able to understand what is happening during these scenes. Placed alongside split-screens and close-ups, the end result of the edits lead to a feeling to personalisation, realisation and understanding of the character, rather than isolation and alienation.
Another winner with this cinematic experience is the soundtrack. Composed by Clint Mansell with a string ensemble performed by the Kronos Quartet, the music is used today in various shows, ads, trailers and films (including The Da Vinci Code, Lost, I Am Legend, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the Sky Sports News theme). It’s no surprise the Requiem has become a cult hit in the past ten years.
Winning actors, actresses, plots, edits and music; this film has it all and more. It’s a film that borders on reality, leaning ever so slightly into the insanity within us all. A definitive ten out of ten!
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM