Fargo's Moving Picture Extravaganza! Requiem for a Dream

Note: This review will contain moderate spoilers for Requiem for a Dream.

What makes a movie disturbing? Is it the shocking images presented to us on our screen, or is it how the director uses far more subtle techniques to get under our skin? Is it the deconstruction of the characters piece by piece, or is it smashing them altogether? Regardless, films designed to disturb, distress and depress have never been commonplace in mainstream cinema. Most are either niche horror flicks or independent productions by more 'artsy' directors, and as such never garner box office success, but they are known to gather success in the world of critics. Today we are going to look at one such film, so let us now step into the world of..

Requiem for a Dream


image

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr. It stars Jared Leto as Harry, Jennifer Connelly as his girlfriend Marion and Marlon Wayans as his best friend Tyrone. They are all heroin addicts living in New York, who enter the drug trade themselves in an attempt to realise their dreams. Ellen Burstyn plays Harry's mother Sara, who lives by herself, wasting her life away watching daytime infomercials and fantasizing about appearing in a particular game show.

Requiem for a Dream is certainly a character driven movie. The entire film revolves around the deconstruction of it's four leads, which is an incredibly depressing feat as, when the film opens, the characters are pretty screwed. Harry , to get money to pay for heroin, often takes his mother's old television set and sells it to a local pawn store. His mother, desperate to have it returned as television is her only real friend, always goes and pays to get it back. This is a seemingly endless ritual, until Harry and Tyrone make the decision to enter the drug trade and build a life for themselves and Marion. The money they make does not last however, as Tyrone is caught up in a gang war and Jack uses the money they've made to bail him out. With neither money nor drugs to be gathered from the gang violence, all three characters spiral downwards.

A similar situation occurs with Sara. She receives a call telling her she has won a place on the game show she frequently watches, and resorts to diet pills to fit into a red dress she wore at Jack's graduation, the happiest moment of her life. The diet pills and red dress form into an obsession for her, eventually resulting in grotesque, frightening hallucinations and Sara completely losing her grip on sanity.

The plot threads I have mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg for the mental and physical devastation Aronofsky puts his characters through. The film has no qualms with showing the true horror and abuse of drugs, using the well-developed characters to hammer each point home, and building up to a terrifying but brilliant climax, which is the films primary focus. Everything that happens in Requiem for a Dream is part of the escalation towards the final scenes of the film, which show the characters in their full, destroyed forms, torn apart by drugs and the false world they created for themselves. It is an incredibly bleak film, with Aronofsky not holding back on any disturbing imagery.

image

The film is relentless in how it deconstructs its characters, with each moment building towards a shatteringly powerful climax.

Aronofsky would not have been able to compile such a film without great actors to present his characters and the horror emerging around them. Luckily, the four leads all give it all and really contribute to the film. Without good acting, the film would fall completely flat, but thanks to the subtlety ingrained in each performance, the characters come off as believable, and sympathetic human beings. I feel Leto's performance is one most deserving off praise, as the character of Harry could easily come off as arrogant and unsympathetic, but Leto plays him with the exact right amount of pathos and blasť humility to allow the audience to connect with him.

That isn't to say the other performances are lesser. Wayans is acting far outside his comfort zone, and pulls it off magnificently, while Burstyn is completely believable in her role, even when her hallucinations start to turn truly haunting and weird. The only weak link in the chain is Connelly, but I am unsure of whether to blame this on her performance or the character in general. She comes off as very selfish and unlikeable, especially towards the end of the film, in which it is implied she disregards Jack and chooses heroine. As I said, I am unsure whether this was the films intention or whether it was simply Connelly's performance, but when Harry's final line is spoken near the end of the film, I disliked her supremely as a character. Speaking of that line, it is perhaps one of the most haunting in film history, at least in my mind.

The film doesn't just rely on it's actors and writing however. Aronofsky proves himself as an adept film-maker on a technical level, with clever cinematography and some fantastic editing. I rarely praise the editing in a film, but I will just say the inter-cutting towards the end of the film is probably some of the most fantastic film trickery I have ever seen. The soundtrack by Clint Mansell is fairly sparse, but the main theme is something everyone will recognise. Don't believe me? Then go and listen to it.

image

The performances, with Leto's in particular, are great and really make the film believable.

Requiem for a Dream is going to be a very polarizing movie. There is no light relief as there is in films like Trainspotting. Instead, it makes the choice to be a powerful and distressing movie that offers no relief to those who decide to watch it. Whether or not this is your thing really depends on the kind of person you are. If you want a fun film, why are you still reading this review? But for those of you who are willing to dip into the haunting and frequently disturbing world of Requiem for a Dream.

I can not guarantee you will enjoy it, or even like it. What I can guarantee, is that you will always remember it. Perhaps this is not a good thing, but Requiem for a Dream commands respect for being one of the most punishing, absorbing and haunting movies ever made.

Good review, I might see this movie. Also, I keep getting 404'd from that link.

FargoDog:
The entire film revolves around the deconstruction of it's four leads

HA! You do it too sometimes!

OT: Apart from a couple other errors, you have convinced me to add this to my list of films to buy. It was a pretty good review, but I'm guessing you would have caught a couple errors had you not written it this late. :p

Also, I had a dream once. That dream involved one of my friends writing a review of a film he had seen recently. Just thought I'd let you know about that.

Marter:

FargoDog:
The entire film revolves around the deconstruction of it's four leads

HA! You do it too sometimes!

OT: Apart from a couple other errors, you have convinced me to add this to my list of films to buy. It was a pretty good review, but I'm guessing you would have caught a couple errors had you not written it this late. :p

Also, I had a dream once. That dream involved one of my friends writing a review of a film he had seen recently. Just thought I'd let you know about that.

I'm tempted to make an Inception reference...

Judgement101:
I'm tempted to make an Inception reference...

I was just trying to figure out a clever way to tell Fargo to do his Centurion review that he told me would be out today. It appears he decided this was more important though.

Marter:

Judgement101:
I'm tempted to make an Inception reference...

I was just trying to figure out a clever way to tell Fargo to do his Centurion review that he told me would be out today. It appears he decided this was more important though.

Then I have an idea! "HEY FARGO DO THE REVIEW!"
Now to sit and wait...I wonder how Centurion was, I heard it was....okay.

Judgement101:
Then I have an idea! "HEY FARGO DO THE REVIEW!"
Now to sit and wait...I wonder how Centurion was, I heard it was....okay.

You missed the word "clever". I didn't want to point it out so...obviously, and using the dream thing fit with the title of this review.

Marter:

Judgement101:
Then I have an idea! "HEY FARGO DO THE REVIEW!"
Now to sit and wait...I wonder how Centurion was, I heard it was....okay.

You missed the word "clever". I didn't want to point it out so...obviously, and using the dream thing fit with the title of this review.

Well, I missed that completely. Fargo does reviews fairly often so hopefully he'll write one tomarrow.

I remember a friend inviting me over to her house specifically to watch this movie. By the end of it my heart was racing intensely, and the ending was one of the most depressing I have seen. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the beginning because I couldn't quite make sense of it.

Marter:

Judgement101:
I'm tempted to make an Inception reference...

I was just trying to figure out a clever way to tell Fargo to do his Centurion review that he told me would be out today. It appears he decided this was more important though.

I didn't decide this was more important, I just completely forgot about Centurion. I shall put it up this evening!

Ha, I remember watching this movie and for the first hour thinking 'This isn't that bad, why does everyone say it's so disturbing?'

Then I saw the last ten minutes... ten minutes I'll never get back. Strangely enough, it was the mother's scenes that really sucker-punched me.

FargoDog:
I didn't decide this was more important, I just completely forgot about Centurion. I shall put it up this evening!

Whatever you say. ;)

Anyway, please do. I've been waiting to hear your thoughts on it for a while. =D

MiracleOfSound:
Ha, I remember watching this movie and for the first hour thinking 'This isn't that bad, why does everyone say it's so disturbing?'

Then I saw the last ten minutes... ten minutes I'll never get back. Strangely enough, it was the mother's scenes that really sucker-punched me.

That is quite strange. They were certainly impactful for me, but nowhere near as much as Marion and the.. activity she engages in at the end. That just floored me.

I enjoyed this film... I think I'm one of the only people who found how truly insane the mum went funny....

I dunno why but it was humurous the rest of this film was extremely powerful though...

FargoDog:
Don't believe me? Then go and listen to it.

Your link there is broken and currently goes nowhere, might want to fix that.

Gildan Bladeborn:

FargoDog:
Don't believe me? Then go and listen to it.

Your link there is broken and currently goes nowhere, might want to fix that.

Ah, thank you. Fixed now.

This is perhaps my favorite film ever.
And one of the most depressing, especially the fate of all of the main characters.

I highly recommend Requiem for a Dream. As mentioned by Fargodog, even the cinematography is different and works very well for the feel of the movie.

And Mansell's main theme is just awesome.
Just too bad that nearly every fucking movie out there used it for their own trailers.

FargoDog:

MiracleOfSound:
Ha, I remember watching this movie and for the first hour thinking 'This isn't that bad, why does everyone say it's so disturbing?'

Then I saw the last ten minutes... ten minutes I'll never get back. Strangely enough, it was the mother's scenes that really sucker-punched me.

That is quite strange. They were certainly impactful for me, but nowhere near as much as Marion and the.. activity she engages in at the end. That just floored me.

Yeah, that was bad too. Especially considering the crush had on Jennifer Connelly.

FargoDog:
The soundtrack by Clint Mansell is fairly sparse, but the main theme is something everyone will recognise. Don't believe me? Then go and listen to it.

Ugh, I really dislike that piece of music. It's overblown and completely overused outside of context. It doesn't actually work as a backing track to anything but the movie as well as anybody seems to think, and I don't think it's a fantastic piece of music anyway even in context.

 

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked