A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Hubert Selby Jr. is one cruel man. Darren Aronofsky is one brave man. Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly are mighty talented people and the experience of “Requiem for a Dream” has left me speechless, uncomfortable and contemplating my own existence.
A film that results in its audience having existential crises is mostly one that is powerful and successful in numerous ways. Needless to say, “Requiem for a Dream” is chillingly affecting in its unrelenting depiction of how addiction and desperation can change our lives in every aspect imaginable.
After a long day at university, filled with socialising, homework and sporadic sunshine, it’s fair to say I wasn’t in the worst to moods upon my return home. Once I arrived back in my room, I unwind and let the day pass for an hour or two while I take some time to organise, tidy and relax.
Dinnertime rolls around and before I know it, it’s movie time! So, I travel back upstairs, open my computer, get the old Netflix up and boldly choose a film that has been on my watch list for some years now. A recommended flick based on my “personal activity” (which is highly alarming seeing as I was merely watching “Daredevil” and “Yu-Gi-Oh” prior to this) I bit the bullet and went into “Requiem for a Dream” with a brave face.
The best way to describe my face from that moment on is to compare it to Dave Bowman’s facial shifts as he travels through the vast psychedelic dimensions in the finale of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Gradually my stern, collected self deteriorates into a shell of the man I was just 102 minutes ago. I am defeated, lost, alone and unsettled.
Aronofsky has achieved what any filmmaker should set out to do; affect their audience for better or worse.
For those unfamiliar with the film, “Requiem for a Dream” is the filmic adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.’s 1978 novel and focuses on four characters, three of whom are connected to Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto).
Harry’s mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn) lives alone and aspires to lose weight in order to fit into an old dress, while Tyrone C. Love (Marlon Wayans) is good friends with Harry and successfully traffics narcotics around town, making a pretty penny along the way. Marion Silver (Jennifer Connelly) is Harry’s girlfriend, a beautiful, devoted and head-over-heals yin to his yang.
Everything within these four people’s lives is fine, until addiction settles in and the inevitable spiral into chaos, despair and shocking consequences comes into full fruition.
The immense dramatic shift that takes place within “Requiem for a Dream” is one that you cannot simply let wash over you. It requires some awareness, boldness and strength, but even then it’s guaranteed to get the better of you.
Times have changed, and it’s strange to think that fifteen years ago, this film would have been playing in film theatres across the world, shocking audiences even more than in the present day.
It’s fair to predict that in another fifteen years “Requiem for a Dream” will still be having a similar effect on its audiences, perhaps even more so.
Performances all round are extremely lifelike, visceral, compelling and confronting. Marlon Wayans shows that he’s a seriously gifted actor when the role is there and his heart is set on something that’s not a cheap “Paranormal Activity” rip-off franchise, whilst Jennifer Connelly’s character ark is heartbreaking and striking at the same time.
Jared Leto casually follows up appearances in “Fight Club” and “American Psycho” to helm this extremely difficult picture without fault. Leto is a primarily bona fide actor and then musician afterwards, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. His abilities and dynamic range are second to none. Harry is such a complex character in that he’s broken, dark, troubled, torn and tortured.
That being said, Harry is charming, thoughtful and soft throughout several points of the film. He cares for those around him and doesn’t want them to spiral out of control like he could at any point.
The standout performer from “Requiem for a Dream” however is Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn gives a truly transformative performance as Sara, and her subtle decline into full-blown insanity is almost impossible to describe in words.
You’ve most likely seen someone similar in your life at one stage or another. Whether it was someone you knew, someone you saw on television or even on a train; it’s no lie that these people exist in our society.
It’s tragic, but when looking at Burstyn’s embodiment of such a person, one cannot help but marvel at her efforts and gasp at the shocking realism.
“Requiem for a Dream” is shot and edited highly stylistically. Each shot tells a story and gives an insight into character, location and state of mind, which is a sign of expert cinematography.
There is a very clever and unique use of the split screen effect that demonstrates each character’s perspective on things, telling the audience that each person has something different going on in their world, even if two of them are sharing a space. The split screen separates characters starkly, and it’s a very intelligent effect to utilise in a film such as this.
The matching rapid-fire editing techniques utilised throughout the film add to the abruptness, the in-your-face tone and the jarring, unrelenting exploration of the subject matter.
It has a slightly comical feel to it at first; somewhat similar to Edgar Wright’s unique style, but soon enough it is woven into the story so consciously that cleverly that it becomes very difficult to watch. Whether it be the quick-fire close up of Leto’s pupil expanding or Sara popping back a couple of ‘diet pills’, the editing and extremely close montage sequences add so much to the overall experience and understanding of “Requiem for a Dream”.
This film is not one for the faint of heart, and I mean that with total, complete and utter sincerity. If you are at all squeamish or uncomfortable about substance addiction that is brought to life through cinema, avoid “Requiem for a Dream” like The Plague.
However, although it may be the reason I will never touch the inside of my elbow ever again, “Requiem for a Dream” is a rather stunning piece of filmmaking. There is some obvious care and thought to be seen within the imagery and build-up of the film, and it definitely makes the more shocking moments necessary and important. “Requiem for a Dream” may be a very impressive film from certain aspects, but it’s one I’ll never be able to watch again.
The performances are fantastic, the bravery in the filmmaking is commendable and it arguably has the most intensely disturbing finale of the last 30 years.
So next time you sit around the television with your family on a cold Friday night, stay well away from this one at all costs. Not to say it’s a bad film, far from it. All I’m saying is you’d have a less awkward and uncomfortable time watching “The Human Centipede”…