Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Requiem for a Dream

No public service announcement can convince you as effectively to not do drugs as well as this Darren Aronofsky film. Requiem for a Dream is a story of four individuals linked either by blood or water that watch their lives fade to tragedy as they are out chasing their desires via narcotics.

Friends Harry (Jared Leto) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are partners in dealing and using. They ambitiously play small time gigs in back alleys of Brighton Beach with the hopes of eventually attaining the elusive "pound of pure." When they get this they will be set and Harry can help his fellow dope fiend girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly)start a fashion design business. All Harry really seems to want is Marion, a dream that shows her standing at a Coney Island pier waiting for him. Tyrone also has a simple dream, his mother's warm embrace (how he plans on attaining this by selling heroin, I do not know). Harry's mother Sarah (Ellen Burstyn) has so little to live for that she spends almost all of her time in her apartment watching television, more specifically an recurring infomercial about weight loss that plays like a drug in that it strives to get you addicted. She holds on to a single memory of her and her deceased husband at Harry's high school graduation. When she learns that she might be on television she goes on a crash diet including a prescription weight loss drug that turns out to be good ole dope.

The film is divided into Summer, Fall, and Winter. An initially dark film grows more morbid with each passing season. The dreams of these four Brooklynites go suffer as time goes on. After brief success by all of them (either in the form of moeny making or losing 25 pounds), they quickly begin to deteriorate. Lack of buyers, and more importantly, lack of drugs to satisfy their own addiction causes strife between Harry and Marion. Tyrone begins to feel more and more isolated and tries to fill the void with, presumably, easy women. Sarah clings tighter and tighter to her fantasy of being on the infomercial to tell the world how great her life is. She falls apart mentally and physically, she becomes delusional, stops eating at all, doesn't listen to anyone, and babels incoherently about her dream.

Towards the end, Harry and Tyrone go on a road trip to find a stash when they are arrested. Tyrone is put on, what is the equivalent of, a chain gang and Harry is sent to the hospital to have his severely infected junkie arm amputated. Marion resorts to prostitution, at first to a family friend, then to a stranger, and then put on display in front of a private crowd where she performs numerous tricks for all perverts to enjoy. Sarah is admitted to a mental hospital where she is forced fed, and eventually is treated with shock treatment that leaves her as aged (from stress) as the typical granny.

Not that my blogs are particularly good to begin with, but this review does not do the film any justice. This is just a brief summary of what occurs in an emotionally raging movie. It is a drama that combines powerful and haunting violin music with cinematography that shows reality in the film as very dark and the dream scenes as obnoxiously over lit by comparison. The characters deliver long speeches about their true motives and hopes in life, they give you a wonderful picture of who they are. This makes the Requiem part of the film that much more dramatic. An all around attention seizing story, it's piece la resistance is its very late climax scene where all four of our fellow New Yorkers go through intense suffering that effectively kills everything good about them, it is madness at its absolute finest. The dreams our protagonists are very simple (though Tyrone's is poorly developed and therefore the least likely to receive sympathy) they all just want the love of some other person. The movie ends with Sarah imagining, for the umpteenth time, that she and Harry are reunited on the infomercial set, hugging and exchanging kind words. The broken dream is best conveyed in Marion's final appearance where she curls up into the fetal position with her bag of crack, lying on the couch as her numerous fashion drawings lie scattered on the ground beneath her.

Though beautifully made, Requiem for a Dream is not a film I would recommend to half the people in my AP Lit class.


  1. Wow dude, amazing summarly of what I can only attest to be a beautiful movie. Many of my friends outside of this school have been known to say that this film is "the best movie I've ever seen in my life."

    Although I have never actually seen it myself, the more and more I learn about it, it seems to me more like a dark work of art then just another generic "movie about the dangers of drugs"

    Not to mention the fact that, "Requiem for a Dream" seems like one of the most properly titled films (according to it's plotline)

    And me being much movie attuned to the musical aspect of flims compared to the average movie-goer or film critic, I have found the symphonic "theme song" of the film to be one of the darkest, most moving pieces of music I have ever heard in my life...
    (I will post a link to the symphony below, I would also like to hear the opinions of many of you on the topic of this epic piece of music)

    Clint Mansell's "Requiem for a Dream"

  2. By the way, how exactly did you come to see this film? I have been wanting to watch this movie for quite a while now, but I never seem to come across it... It is never on TV, and there are no websites hosting it for free that I know of...

    So please enlighten a fellow brotha!
    (Please don't tell me you actually went to Blockbuster and rented it... lol)

    And in regards to the last sentence you wrote,
    Why exactly would you not recommend this film to half of the kids in your AP Literature class?

  3. Your opening line of, "No public service announcement can convince you as effectively to not do drugs as well as this Darren Aronofsky film." brought me to another brilliant thought on the subject...

    If the New York Board of Education or the NYPD were really serious about combating the growing problem of drug use among adolescents, they would stop all of the corny/epically lame Reagan-era "Say No to Drugs" campaigns. Instead, the would just show this movie in its entirety in all high-risk schools across the city. Not only would the students be exposed to a beautiful work of art, but I believe that this is one of the few films that actually has the ablility to motivate individuals to turn their lives around.

    I'd also like to hear Bennett's thoughts on this since he already has prior experience being an "Educational Administrator" in schools much tougher than ours.
    One more thing, I also nominate this movie to be one of the "Our Choice Films" that we get to see at the end of the school year.
    What do you say on the subject matter Bennett?