Requiem for a Dream
|Requiem for a Dream|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Darren Aronofsky|
|Based on||Requiem for a Dream
by Hubert Selby, Jr.
|Music by||Clint Mansell|
|Edited by||Jay Rabinowitz|
|Distributed by||Artisan Entertainment|
|Box office||$7.4 million|
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.
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.
During the summer in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, widow Sara Goldfarb constantly watches television, particularly infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons. After receiving an unexpected phone call that she has won a spot to participate on a television game show, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in an old photograph. To reach her goal, she goes to a doctor to discuss weight loss. The doctor gives her 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. When her invitation does not arrive, she increases her dosage from double to triple and, as a result, begins to suffer from amphetamine psychosis.
Meanwhile, Sara's son Harry is young and has an adventurous life with his girlfriend Marion Silver and best friend Tyrone C. Love. He and his friends are all heroin addicts, and Harry funds his habit through petty theft, including from his own mother who turns a blind eye. Tyrone decides that to support themselves, they should enter the illegal drug trade around Coney Island. With the promised money, each addict hopes to achieve their dreams. At first, the trio's drug 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. After the assassination, the three find it much more difficult to find heroin due to 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 suggests that Marion ask for the needed cash from her psychiatrist in exchange for sex, which she does begrudgingly, and at a cost to her relationship with Harry. Tyrone and Harry go to meet the wholesaler, but the rest of the local low-level dealers are also there, and tensions are running high. There is pushing and shoving and soon a shot rings out. The wholesaler's bodyguards respond by firing indiscriminately into the crowd before departing. 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 her after giving her the number of a pimp who trades heroin for sex. Harry convinces Tyrone that their best option is to drive all the way to Florida to pick up and put their drug dealing business back on track.
After a series of traumatizing hallucinations, Sara flees her apartment and takes a subway to the casting agency in Manhattan to confirm when she will be on the show with Tappy Tibbons. Once at the agency, the staff try to reassure her while they wait for paramedics. Sara is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward where she is given a series of 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, Harry’s increasingly infected left arm from his heroin injections forces them to visit a hospital. A doctor notices the symptoms of drug abuse and Harry and Tyrone are arrested. Back in New York, Marion meets with the dealer who gives her drugs in exchange for sex and invites her to join a "party" that weekend if she wants more.
In the climax of the film, we see a series of rapidly intercut scenes showing the depths to which our four protagonists have sunk. Tyrone is doing hard labor in jail, being taunted by prison guards, and unable to sleep due to drug withdrawal. Harry is transferred from prison to a hospital and his arm is amputated. Sara undergoes several rounds of electroconvulsive therapy. Marion returns to the dealer's apartment, where the "party" is a private sex show in the middle of a crowded room of braying men, in which Marion has to perform humiliatingly.
Sara's friends come to the hospital to see her but she doesn't react to them, and both can later be seen outside on a bench crying. Harry wakes after the amputation and weeps. Tyrone lies in his prison bed haunted by memories of his mother. Marion lies on her sofa serenely clutching her bag of heroin. That night, Sara has a dream in which she wins the grand prize in game show with Harry as the guest of honor.
- Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb
- Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb
- Jennifer Connelly as Marion Silver
- Marlon Wayans as Tyrone C. Love
- Christopher McDonald as Tappy Tibbons
- Mark Margolis as Mr. Rabinowitz
- Louise Lasser as Ada
- Marcia Jean Kurtz as Rae
- Sean Gullette as Arnold, Marion's psychiatrist
- Keith David as Big Tim, Marion's pimp
- Dylan Baker as Southern Doctor
- Ajay Naidu as Mailman
- Ben Shenkman as Dr. Spencer
- Hubert Selby, Jr. as Laughing guard
- Darren Aronofsky (uncredited) as Visitor
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. However, Aronofsky has said:
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.
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As in his previous film, π, Aronofsky uses montages of extremely short shots throughout the film (sometimes termed a hip hop montage). 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. 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.
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. Aronofsky aims to subjectivize emotion, and the effect of his stylistic choices is personalization rather than alienation. The camera serves as a vehicle for exploring the characters’ states of mind, hallucinations, visual distortions, and corrupted sense of time.
The film's distancing itself from empathy is structurally advanced by the use of intertitles (Summer, Fall, Winter), marking the temporal progress of addiction. 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.
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. 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". In Australia the film was rated R18+ by the ACB for "drug use and adult themes".
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." The film also has a score 68 out of 100 on Metacritic , based on 32 critics indicating "generally favorable reviews." 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. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of four, stating that "What is fascinating about Requiem for a Dream,...is how well he 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." 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."
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." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film four out of four stars and wrote that "no one interested in the power and magic of movies should miss it." Owen Gleiberman, writing for Entertainment Weekly, gave the film an "A" grade. "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." IGN gave the film a 9.0 out of 10. "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."
Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Sara Goldfarb, 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.
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)
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.
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