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
Based on Requiem for a Dream
by Hubert Selby, Jr.
Music by Clint Mansell
Cinematography Matthew Libatique
Edited by Jay Rabinowitz
Distributed by Artisan Entertainment
Release date
  • May 14, 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
  • October 27, 2000 (2000-10-27) (US)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.5 million
Box office $7.4 million[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.

The film depicts four different forms of drug addiction, which lead to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken by reality, thus leaving them as hollow shells of their former selves.[3][4]

Requiem for a Dream was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival[5] and received positive reviews from critics upon its U.S. release. Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.


During the summer in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, widow Sara Goldfarb spends her time sitting outside with fellow, Jewish elderly ladies, and watching a infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons. After receiving a phone call that she has won a spot on a television game show, she becomes obsessed with once again fitting into her old red dress. Failing her diet, she gets a prescription for weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. As the months go by, Sara's tolerance for the pills adjusts and as a result she is no longer able to feel the same high the pills once gave her. Her invitation to the show does not arrive, and she increases her dosage from double to triple and, as a result, begins to suffer from amphetamine psychosis.

Meanwhile, Sara's son Harry, his girlfriend Marion, and friend Tyrone are frequent drug users, with Harry sometimes funding his habit by selling his mother's TV. Harry and Tyrone dream of becoming drug dealers, so that they will not just have drugs to use, but will become wealthy. At first their dealing business thrives. However, Tyrone is imprisoned after fleeing the scene of a drug-gang assassination and Harry uses most of their earned money to post bail. Afterward, the three are unable find heroin for use or sale, due to the supply being restricted by the Florida-based wholesalers. Eventually, Tyrone hears that the wholesaler is making a shipment, but the price is doubled and the minimum amount is high. Harry, desperate, asks Marion to ask for the cash from her psychiatrist in exchange for affection, which she does grudgingly, and at a cost to her relationship with Harry. When Tyrone and Harry go to buy from the wholesaler, the sale is scuttled when another buyer fires off his gun. Harry returns empty-handed to Marion, who is so desperate that she has turned the apartment upside down searching for scraps, and they have a screaming argument. He leaves after giving her the number of a pimp who trades heroin for sex. Harry convinces Tyrone that their best option is to drive to Florida to buy heroin in order to put their drug dealing business back on track.

After a series of hallucinations, Sara flees her apartment for the office of the casting agency in Manhattan to confirm when she will be on TV. She is taken away by ambulance, and is committed to a psychiatric ward where she is subject to degrading treatments. When none of these work, the doctor persuades a barely lucid Sara to sign approval for electroconvulsive therapy.

On the way to Miami, they are stop at an emergency room because of Harry's increasingly infected arm from his needle injections. The doctor notices the symptoms of drug abuse, and Harry and Tyrone are arrested. Back in New York, Marion is so desperate for heroin, she meets with the pimp who gives trades sex for drugs with the pimp, and he invites her to join a party that weekend if she wants an even bigger score.

In the end, Tyrone is doing hard labor in jail, being taunted by prison guards, and suffering from drug withdrawal; Harry is transferred from prison to a hospital and his arm is amputated; Sara undergoes several rounds of traumatic electroshock therapy; and Marian goes to the party that turns out to be a private sex show in the middle of a crowded room of horny men, in which Marion has to perform.

Sara's friends come to the hospital to see her but she doesn't react to them, and both afterward hold each other distraught. Harry wakes after the amputation, telling the nurse that his girlfriend won't be coming to visit him. Tyrone suffers in the prison workhouse. Marion lies on her sofa comforted by the heroin, clutching the large bag she earned. That night, Sara has a dream she wins the grand prize in a game show, with Harry as the guest of honor.



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.[6][7]

However, Aronofsky has said:[8]

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.


As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage).[6] 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.[6][9] 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.[10]

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.[9] Aronofsky aims to subjectivize emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalization rather than alienation.[10] The camera serves as a vehicle for exploring the characters’ states of mind, hallucinations, visual distortions, and corrupted sense of time.[4]

The film's distancing itself from empathy is structurally advanced by the use of intertitles (Summer, Fall, Winter), marking the temporal progress of addiction.[10] 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.[9]


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.[11] 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 for "drug depiction, coarse language and sex".[1] In Australia the film was rated R18+ by the ACB for "drug use and adult themes".

Critical reception[edit]

Requiem for a Dream received positive reviews from critics and has a "Certified Fresh" score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 133 reviews, with an average rating of 7.4 out of 10. The critical consensus states, "Though the movie may be too intense for some to stomach, the wonderful performances and the bleak imagery are hard to forget."[12] The film also has a score of 68 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[13] Film critic James Berardinelli considered Requiem for a Dream the second best film of the decade, behind the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.[14] Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of four, stating that "What is fascinating about Requiem for a Dream, how well [Aronofsky] portrays the mental states of his addicts. When they use, a window opens briefly into a world where everything is right. Then it slides shut, and life reduces itself to a search for the money and drugs to open it again."[15] Elvis Mitchell, writing for The New York Times, gave the film a positive review, stating that "After the young director's phenomenal debut with the barely budgeted Pi, which was like watching a middleweight boxer win a fight purely on reflexes, he comes back with a picture that shows maturation."[16]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, lauded the film. "His agonising and unflinchingly grim portrait of drug abuse, taken from a novel by Hubert Selby Jr (with whom Aronofsky co-wrote the screenplay), is a formally pleasing piece of work - if pleasing can possibly be the right word."[17] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that "no one interested in the power and magic of movies should miss it."[18] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, who gave the work an "A" grade, argued that it "may be the first movie to fully capture the way drugs dislocate us from ourselves" and said, "The movie, a full-throttle mind-bender, is hypnotically harrowing and intense, a visual and spiritual plunge into the seduction and terror of drug addiction."[19] Scott Brake of IGN gave the film a 9.0 out of 10 and argued, "The reason it works so well as a film about addiction is that, in every frame, the film itself is addictive. It's absolutely relentless, from Aronofsky's bravura cinematic techniques (split screens, complex cross-cutting schemes, hallucinatory visuals) to Clint Mansell's driving, hypnotic score (performed by the Kronos Quartet), the movie compels you to watch it."[20]

Some critics were less positive, however. On Mr. Showbiz, Kevin Maynard stated that the film is "never the heart-wrenching emotional experience it seems intended to be." J. Rentilly billed the work as "chilling and technically proficient and, also, fairly hollow." Desson Thompson of The Washington Post argued that its characters are "mostly relegated to human mannequins in Aronofsky's visual schemes". David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor wrote that "Aronofsky's filmmaking gets addicted to its own flashy cynicism".[21]


Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Sara Goldfarb,[22] but lost to Julia Roberts in the title role of Erin Brockovich. 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.[23]

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).[24] In a 2016 international critics' poll conducted by BBC, it was voted one of the 100 greatest motion pictures since 2000.[25]


The soundtrack was composed by Clint Mansell with the string ensemble performed by Kronos Quartet. 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, The Giver, 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.[26]

The soundtrack also confirmed its popularity with the album Requiem for a Dream: Remixed, which contains remixes 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. November 23, 2000. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Requiem for a Dream (2000) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. January 1, 2002. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Requiem for a Dream :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Skorin-Kapov, Jadranka (2015) Darren Aronofsky's Films and the Fragility of Hope, p.32 Bloomsbury Academic
  5. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Requiem for a Dream". Retrieved October 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Booker, M. (2007). Postmodern Hollywood. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0-275-99900-9. 
  7. ^ Boyd, Susan (2008). Hooked. New York: Routledge. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-415-95706-0. 
  8. ^ "It's a punk movie". (October 13, 2000). Retrieved 2010-12-12.
  9. ^ a b c Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing. London: Focal. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0-240-80420-1. 
  10. ^ a b c Powell, Anna (2007). Deleuze, Altered States and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-7486-3282-4. 
  11. ^ 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 November 1, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  13. ^ "Requiem for a Dream Reviews". Metacritic. n.d. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Top 10 Movies of the Decade". Retrieved March 1, 2011
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 3, 2000). "Requiem for a Dream Movie Review (2000)". Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  16. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (October 6, 2000). "Movie Review: Requiem for a Dream". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  17. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (January 18, 2001). "Living in Oblivion". The Guardian. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ Travers, Peter (December 11, 2000). "Requiem for a Dream". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  19. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 13, 2000). "Movie Review: 'Requiem for a Dream' Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Review of Requiem for a Dream". IGN. October 20, 2000. Retrieved December 13, 2004. 
  21. ^ "Critic Reviews for Requiem for a Dream". Metacritic. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ "Award Nominees – 2000". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  24. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  25. ^ "The 21st century's 100 greatest films". BBC. August 23, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  26. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Answer Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 2, 2007.

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