Exhausted! Mentally and emotionally drained to the point of stunned numbness, is how my spouse and I felt after watching Requiem for a Dream. We both sat on the couch for several moments after the movie ended watching the credits go by in complete silence. The only noise was that of the eerily beautiful violin passage that accompanied most of the movie (I found myself strangely drawn to it, like a gull to water), and the sounds of the late evening spring wind rustling the green, green tree across the street from our apartment.
Finally, my spouse turned to me and said in a silent defeated voice, that the movie had left her drained, scarcely able to move or think. She further remarked that the images from the movie would most likely follow her to bed and haunt her in her dreams; they did! I nodded and said I felt the same, and while she went to take a cooling shower, and thus wash away the memories, I crept outside to the balcony to taste the cool wind on my skin in an effort to ground myself. As I listened to the wind caress the leafs of trees and whisper pleasant nothing into unhearing ears, I returned to myself and gave thanks to God that I have never been one to mask the everyday stuff of life with substances designed to alter my fragile brains' chemical balance.
Our reaction to Requiem for a Dream I am sure is not isolated. The movie with its fast action repeating scenes and the countless subliminal messages can't help but draw you in and tie you up in emotional knots not soon escaped. Anyone who can watch the movie in its entirety and not feel drained, not feel moved, or just plain numb, is not human!
Requiem for a Dream is writer-director Darren Aronofsky's sophomore follow up to his much-admired debut film PI, which won the best director's award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.
Requiem was a non-stop, blistering, often horrifying look into the world of drug abuse, both legal and illegal. The movie centered around four principle characters: Harry portrayed new comer Jared Leto, is a heroin addict whose habit eventfully costs him dearly; Sarah portrayed by Ellen Burstyn, is Harry's bored and lonely mother who becomes addicted to diet drugs after being invited to appear on her favorite TV game show; Marion portrayed by Jennifer Connelly, is Harry's girlfriend, who as the movie progresses losses her very soul in search of a fix; and Tyrone portrayed by Marlon Wayans is Harry's best friend and fellow addict, who winds up losing less than all the rest when all is said and done.
All turn in stellar performances, but I was surprised by the depth of Ellen Burstyns' Sarah. Her portrayal of an older woman's fall into the depths of a drug-induced fantasyland was a mean bit of acting. After watching the movie I can see why hers was singled out as perhaps the best performance of the movie. Marlon Wayans stripped of his comedic overcoat turns in fine performance as well, giving us a look at the soul of a man wanting to stop the abuse of his mind and body, but not sure where to start. Jennifer Connelly turns in her finest performance to date as a woman searching for meaning, a place to be, a sense of belonging, something real to hold onto and love. All of Jennifer's movie roles up to his point have been as window dressing, eye candy for the male masses. In this role, she proves she can act, and turns in an agonizing performance. She is portrayed as strikingly beautiful and in control, and as haggard and outside of herself as the drugs seduce her into doing that which she would otherwise not have done.
The last 15-20 minutes of the film is not for the faint of heart; all of the characters are consigned to their faiths in a rapidly changing montage of horror filled scenes in which human dignity is striped and ripped from the four without regard or compassion. And God (and salvation) is just a distant light fading in the far reaches of their minds; there is no guardian angel to save them from themselves, no white doves, no kind words, nor understanding, only grieve, suffering, and misery. Is there any wonder we were exhausted by the end of it all?
The moral of the story, as if one needed to be voiced after the film is seen, is this: what so often starts out as pleasure will lead to pain if indulged in to excess. Drugs as a quick fix for what ails you, be it life, or excessive weigh will alter your very soul and take you places you are better off not going outside your slumbering dreams. Stay away, stay far away, from the drugs, but see the movie and learn the reason why!
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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The film focuses on a quartet of doomed souls, but it's Ellen Burstyn--in a raw and bravely triumphant performance--who most desperately embodies the downward spiral of drug abuse. As lonely widow Sara Goldfarb, she invests all of her dreams in an absurd self-help TV game show, jolting her bloodstream with diet pills and coffee while her son Harry (Jared Leto) shoots heroin with his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and slumming girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). They're careening toward madness at varying speeds, and Aronofsky tracks this gloomy process by endlessly repeating the imagery of their deadly routines. Tormented by her dietary regime, Sara even imagines a carnivorous refrigerator in one...