Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto,
Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans
Requiem For A Dream is the stories of four people and their addictions and how these addictions are supposed to lead them to happiness but ultimately leads them to sadness, pain and misery. Sara Goldfarb wants to be on television, this will lead her to being wanted, loved and accepted. But first she has to lose some weight so that she can fit into her red dress, that she plans to wear on the show. Diets don’t work so she tries diet pills instead. Her downward spiral has begun.
Meanwhile, her junkie son Harry and his junkie girlfriend Marion want to set up business together. So he and his friend Tyrone get into drug dealing to fund this venture. For a while things go swimmingly but then a drugs war between the Italians and the blacks hits them, the small time dealer, hardest. Subsequently, Tyrone is arrested by the police, and the money they have made so far has to be spent on bail. The drug war makes it harder for them to start up again. Their downward spiral has begun. Desperation leads to desperate acts.
Sara goes to the television studio to find out when she will be appearing. Harry and Tyrone head out of the city to get some new supplies, at the same time Harry’s arm is infected from all the injections. Marion resorts to using her body as a means of getting her next fix. For all of them what they thought would lead them to happiness has, in fact lead them to complete misery. In the end they all crawl into the foetal position, hoping maybe, for a new start.
Requiem For a Dream is an early contender for film of the year. It will take something extra special to top this.
Director Darren Aronofsky (the guy behind the mind numbingly original Pi) makes his intentions clear from the outset. Using split screen in the first scene. Aronofsky proceeds to use every stylistic trick in the book. And then some. Slow motion, fast motion, fast cuts, delirious camera work, man-eating fridges and a soundtrack to die for. This all adds up to make a vast, sumptuous, cinematic feast. Unfortunately it’s these very things that have the critics trotting out that old bugbear “style over substance”.
Well, I like stylish movies, and, as of now, Requiem For A Dream is the epitome. Many people seem to forget that movies are primarily a visual art form, so to start slagging a film off for indulging in stylistic flourishes that sear your eyeballs seems to be a bit short sighted. However I’m not suggesting that Requiem… is a case of style over substance (substance abuse, maybe. Ha ha, only kidding), far from it. It’s just that most people viewing this film can’t get past the drugs aspect of it. Yes, I know, it’s right up there in your face, but what about all the other addictions on show. Television, coffee, food, diet pills and sex are all given a good hearing. In fact anybody with any kind of addiction whatsoever should go and see this film right fucking now. I bet my ass you will find some connection with at least one of the characters.
The film doesn’t just focus on addictions either. It also looks at people’s attempts to better themselves or to achieve something that will make them happy. Sara Goldfarb (played to perfection by Ellen Burstyn, who should be up for an Oscar and if she doesn’t win one then I know that Hollywood doesn’t know a fucking thing about movies) wants to be on television and, more importantly wants to be liked, loved and wanted by everybody. Perfectly understandable, so do a lot of other people. Her son Harry (Jared Leto: last seen getting the shit beaten out of him by Edward Norton in Fight Club) wants to make enough money so that he can set up in business with his girlfriend Marion (the gorgeous Jennifer Connelly). Finally there is Tyrone (Marlon Wayans); Harry’s drug dealing partner and friend. He again wants to make money. But he wants to get off the streets and make something for himself and to keep a promise he made to his mother when he was younger. So, you see aspirations that anybody can associate with. Unfortunately from the outset you know that this tale of addiction and the pursuit of happiness is not going to have a cheery, uplifting ending.
And in this world created by Aronofsky and Hubert Selby Jr (whose book this is based on), these lofty aspirations are just not obtainable, and just results in a long fall and one hell of a landing. It’s the ending (the landing, if you will) that will stick in your mind long after you have left the cinema (definitely see it on the big screen, it will be severely diluted when released on video). Granted, many films have finished on a downer, but never with such relentlessness and energy. It gets to the point that you just want to shout “PLEASE FUCKING STOP!” When it finally does you are mentally and physically shattered; it feels like you have been living out what you have seen on the screen. Now that’s what I call good cinema.
No audience member can remain unaffected by the negative onslaught unleashed upon him or her. If they do then they are probably dead. As you can tell, this is no picnic. However, there are a few light moments: the portrayal of doctors and nurses as uncaring, unsympathetic assholes brought a smile to this reviewers face, and the scene where we see Sara Goldfarb sitting in front of her new gigantic television that her son has bought for her provoked some laughs. For the most part though, it’s all doom and gloom and it’s to Aronofsky’s credit that he can keep the audience hooked to the last frame and not have them heading for the doors in a wave of depression and suicidal angst.
Next up for Aronofsky: the new Batman flick, I don’t know about you but I’m practically drowning in my own saliva over the mouth-watering prospects this partnership brings. Get excited now.
© Review By Martainn Russell.