Requiem for a Dream

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Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a dream.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Produced by Eric Watson
Palmer West
Screenplay by Darren Aronofsky
Hubert Selby, Jr.
Based on Requiem for a Dream 
by Hubert Selby, Jr.
Starring Ellen Burstyn
Jared Leto
Jennifer Connelly
Marlon Wayans
Music by Clint Mansell
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Editing by Jay Rabinowitz
Studio Thousand Words
Protozoa Pictures
Distributed by Artisan Entertainment
Release dates
  • May 14, 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
  • September 13, 2000 (2000-09-13) (TIFF)
  • October 27, 2000 (2000-10-27)
Running time 101 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.5 million
Box office $7,390,108[2]

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 American psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., with whom Aronofsky wrote the screenplay. Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.[3]

The film depicts different forms of addiction, which lead to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken by reality.[4]


The film charts three seasons in the lives of Sara Goldfarb, her son Harry, his girlfriend Marion Silver and his friend Tyrone C. Love.

The story begins in summertime. Sara Goldfarb, an elderly widow living alone in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, spends her time watching infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons. After a phone call announces she will be invited to participate in a game show, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in a photograph from Harry's graduation, her proudest moment. In order to fit into her old red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she begins taking a regimen of prescription weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. Despite Harry’s warnings about amphetamine dependence, she passionately insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live. When her invitation does not arrive over the fall season, she increases her dosage but begins suffering from amphetamine psychosis, hallucinating that she is the principal subject of the game show and her refrigerator is a menacing, living monster.

Harry is a heroin addict; together with fellow addicts Tyrone and Marion, he enters the illegal drug trade around Coney Island. With the money they make over the summer, Harry and Marion hope to open a fashion store for Marion’s designs, while Tyrone dreams of making his mother proud by escaping the street. However, at the beginning of Autumn, Tyrone is caught in the middle of a drug gang assassination, and Harry must use most of their money to post bail. Increasing drug-related violence and arrests make it hard to obtain drugs, throwing Harry, Tyrone and Marion into a state of deprivation. Growing more desperate, Harry convinces Marion to have sex with her psychiatrist in exchange for money, causing a rift in the relationship. Meanwhile, Harry’s arm is becoming infected from unsanitary injection techniques.

As Sara’s sanity unravels, she takes the subway to visit the television studio in Manhattan. The secretary at the studio calls a hospital, and Sara is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward where she undergoes unsuccessful medicative treatment, followed by electroconvulsive therapy only to lose her mind completely. Harry and Tyrone set out for Florida to obtain drugs, but Harry’s increasingly infected arm forces them to visit a hospital in South Carolina, where they are arrested as a result of Tyrone breaking the terms of his bail by leaving the state of New York[citation needed]. Tyrone must deal with hard labor, racist prison guards, and drug withdrawal, while Harry is taken to a hospital to have his arm amputated. Back in New York, Marion meets with a pimp who gives her drugs in exchange for sex and puts her in sex shows to support her drug habit. Harry has a recurring dream of Marion waiting for him at a pier at Coney Island, but awakens and realizes he is alone in the hospital with just one arm.

Lost in misery, each character curls into a fetal position. In Sara’s dream, she wins the game show’s grand prize and meets Harry there. In her fantasy, Harry is a successful businessman and engaged to Marion. Sara and Harry hug and say how much they love one another through the cheers of the crowd and the glowing stage lights.



The film rights to Hubert Selby, Jr.'s book were optioned by Scott Vogel for Truth and Soul Pictures in 1997 prior to the release of Aronofsky's film π.


The majority of reviewers characterized Requiem for a Dream in the genre of "drug movies", along with films like The Basketball Diaries, Trainspotting, Spun, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.[5][6] However, Aronofsky has said:[7]

Requiem for a Dream is not about heroin or about drugs… The Harry-Tyrone-Marion story is a very traditional heroin story. But putting it side by side with the Sara story, we suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, what is a drug?' The idea that the same inner monologue goes through a person's head when they're trying to quit drugs, as with cigarettes, as when they're trying to not eat food so they can lose 20 pounds, was really fascinating to me. I thought it was an idea that we hadn't seen on film and I wanted to bring it up on the screen.

In the book, Selby refers to the "American Dream" as amorphous and unattainable, a compilation of the various desires of the story's characters.


One of the filmmaking techniques in Requiem for a Dream is the use of rapid cuts or a hip hop montage. Whenever the characters use street drugs, a rapid succession of images illustrates their transition from sobriety to intoxication. In this scene, Harry and Tyrone deal drugs and Marion uses cocaine while she designs clothes. The speed of the footage and the cuts alternates as the characters become intoxicated and sober.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage).[5] While an average 100-minute film has 600 to 700 cuts, Requiem features more than 2,000. Split-screen is used extensively, along with extremely tight closeups.[5][8] Long tracking shots (including those shot with an apparatus strapping a camera to an actor, called the Snorricam) and time-lapse photography are also prominent stylistic devices.[9]

In order to portray the shift from the objective, community-based narrative to the subjective, isolated state of the characters' perspectives, Aronofsky alternates between extreme closeups and extreme distance from the action and intercuts reality with a character's fantasy.[8] Aronofsky aims to subjectivize emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalization rather than alienation.[9]

The film's distancing itself from empathy is furthered structurally by the use of intertitles (Summer, Fall, Winter), marking the temporal progress of addiction.[9] The average scene length shortens as the film progresses (beginning around 90 seconds to two minutes) until the movie's climactic scenes, which are cut together very rapidly (many changes per second) and are accompanied by a score which increases in intensity accordingly. After the climax, there is a short period of serenity, during which idyllic dreams of what may have been are juxtaposed with portraits of the four shattered lives.[8]


Requiem for a Dream premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2000 and the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival on September 13 before a wide release on October 27.


In the United States, the film was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA, but Aronofsky appealed the rating, claiming that cutting any portion of the film would dilute its message. The appeal was denied and Artisan decided to release the film unrated.[10] An R-rated version was released on video, with the sex scene edited, but the rest of the film identical to the unrated version.

In the United Kingdom, the film was given an 18 certificate by the BBFC.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received a largely positive response from critics, with the film aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a 78% "Certified Fresh" rating, with the site consensus "Though the movie may be too intense for some to stomach, the wonderful performances and the bleak imagery are hard to forget."[11] Film critic James Berardinelli considered Requiem for a Dream the second best film of the decade, behind the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.[12]


Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Sara Goldfarb,[13] but lost to Dying Young co-star Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name. She was nominated for several other awards including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.[14]

In 2007, Requiem for a Dream was picked as one of the 400 nominated films for the American Film Institute list AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)[15]


Listen to a clip from the soundtrack of "Requiem for a Dream."

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The soundtrack was composed by Clint Mansell with the string ensemble performed by Kronos Quartet. It is notable for its use of sharp string instruments to create a cold and discomforting sound from instruments frequently used for their warmth and softness. The string quartet arrangements were written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang.

The soundtrack has been widely praised and has subsequently been used in various forms in trailers for other films, including The Da Vinci Code, Sunshine, Lost, I Am Legend, Babylon A.D., and Zathura. A version of the recurring theme was re-orchestrated for the film trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.[16]

The soundtrack also confirmed its popularity with the remix album Requiem for a Dream: Remixed, which contains new mixes of the music by Paul Oakenfold, Josh Wink, Jagz Kooner, and Delerium, among others.


  1. ^ a b "REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2000-11-23. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  2. ^ "Requiem for a Dream (2000) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. 2002-01-01. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Requiem for a Dream". Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  4. ^ "Requiem for a Dream :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-04-13.
  5. ^ a b c Booker, M. (2007). Postmodern Hollywood. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-99900-9. 
  6. ^ Boyd, Susan (2008). Hooked. New York: Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-415-95706-0. 
  7. ^ "It's a punk movie". (2000-10-13). Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  8. ^ a b c Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing. London: Focal. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0-240-80420-1. 
  9. ^ a b c Powell, Anna (2007). Deleuze, Altered States and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-7486-3282-4. 
  10. ^ Hernandez, Eugene; Anthony Kaufman (August 25, 2000). "MPAA Upholds NC-17 Rating for Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream"; Artisan Stands Behind Film and Will Release Film Unrated". indieWIRE. SnagFilms. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  12. ^ "Top 10 Movies of the Decade". Retrieved 2011-03-01
  13. ^ Lyman, Rick (March 4, 2001). "OSCAR FILMS/ACTORS: An Angry Man and an Underused Woman; Ellen Burstyn Enjoys Her Second Act". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Award Nominees – 2000". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  15. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Answer Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 2, 2007.

External links[edit]