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Screenshot from “Requiem for a Dream” (2000)

I am fairly new to drug addiction themed films, so I have never seen anything quite like Requiem for a Dream. After viewing it though, I knew that there was something special about it.

This addiction drama showcases the lives of four characters and their struggles combating addiction. Harry and his best friend Tyrone (played by Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans) are heroin addicts living in Coney Island, NY. Harry fantasizes about opening a clothing boutique with his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly) with the money he would profit from if he got his hands on a pound of snowball. Harry’s mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn), sits at home all day and watches a particular game show which motivates its audience to make healthier diet choices. One day, she receives a phone call and is informed that she will have an opportunity to be on this show. Desperate to fit into a red dress sentimental to her, she visits a seedy doctor who prescribes her amphetamine diet pills.

Beginning the film, I only knew thin details about Sara’s storyline. The film does a seamless job of bouncing back between these storylines, and is loaded to the brim with cinematographic beauty. Darren Aranofsky uses split shots (the screen is divided into two to depict two characters) to separate two people in the same room. Not knowing what a heroin high feels like, I can imagine that this is a wonderful metaphor for how hard drugs can distance two people, even if they are laying in each others arms.

Another type of shot used throughout the film is known as a “hip-hop montage”. Anytime that a character is ingesting a drug, the film enters a hyper-speed montage with rapid shots lasting half a second. These shots quickly show the preparation and ingestion of whatever drug the character is consuming, and is infinitely entertaining to watch.

Without spoiling too much of this film, attention deserves to be given to Ellen Burstyn for her performance. Perhaps I felt the most sympathy for her story because hers was the only one I vaguely knew about before watching. But after looking at some information online, I can see that I’m not the only one. Her performance is heartbreaking and hypnotic. While all the actors performed well, she is the star of the show.

While most might find this film hard to watch, this is only a testament to its power. Watching a film should engage its audience and leave them with an impression. Perhaps the impression one might have after watching this film might not be pleasant, but it is potent and powerful nonetheless.Requiem is played out more like a parable of its four central characters than a “junkie film”, and I liked this approach.

If you are looking for a great cinematic experience, Requiem will not disappoint. However, it is not for the faint of heart. Those who can endure many of Requiem‘s more disturbing themes will be rewarded with a visually rich and thoroughly designed film.

5/5

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